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Piñatas as art, Coachella weekend, and Wayne Thiebaud

 April 13, 2023 at 1:00 PM PDT

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. The Pinata exhibit at the mine closes later this month , but we took a closer look with pinata artist Diana Benavides here with all the details and some other parts of arts and culture events this weekend is KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Julia , welcome.

S2: Hi , Jade. Thanks for having me.

S1: Always good to have you. So this is an exhibit about the humble pinata.

S2: And it debuted in 2021 at the Craft in America Center in Los Angeles. And now it's here at the gate. It's been here since the fall. It's all Latinx artists , and there's a huge range. There's some wearable ones. There's fancy versions of traditional pinatas , some that look super detailed , some of them are even political. Wow.

S1: Wow. It sounds very intricate. Tell us about Diana Benavides and some of her pinatas.

S2: So , yeah , I had Diana Benavidez show me around this week and we stopped at one of her pinatas. There's two gigantic shoes , these sporty green sneakers. They have bright red laces and then text across the toes in Spanish. That roughly translates to it's too late to be out alone. These are so big , these shoes. They're incredible.

S3: And that's usually a phrase that we'll hear from your mom or an adult when you're maybe a teenager. And it comes with , you know , that sense of like you as a woman , you have to be vigilant about your surroundings , but also talks about like these rituals that women adopt in order to , you know , navigate public spaces.

S1: That is so relatable. I mean , I remember getting that talk from my mom , my grandma , even my dad about just being vigilant when out in public , kind of keeping your head on a swivel all the time. Yeah.

S2: Yeah. And right next to it is this set of keys. It's a gigantic set of keys. And she specifically said that it was her mother who taught her how to how to hold her keys to defend herself if needed.

S1: And I mean , that is an experience that's unique for women , for females , and that we have to be so mindful of how we move about in public spaces as to where men maybe don't have to worry about that , like in the same way that women do.

S2: Right , Exactly. It's all about these little rituals that that women have to develop and pass on to their friends or their daughters. And Diana Benavides is also navigating these spaces across the border. And that also plays into her work to.

S1: I mean , she's bringing a lot of issues to the forefront there. And of course , these are not the type of pinatas you'll find in a party store.

S2: I recently spoke with Diana about about her upbringing , but also about how the museum just bought a couple of her pinatas for their permanent collection. So here's that interview.

S3: Yeah , I think it all started when I was around 12 years old. I lived in Tijuana. My first job was at a mexican candy place where they sold pinatas. They made and sold pinatas. And that's when I kind of had my first intro to pinata making. And after learning how much time , effort materials went into these sculptures that essentially were just meant to be broken , it kind of just made me feel like there's more that we could do with pinatas. I don't know. I just start to think about things that represent my identity and maybe things that I could also afford material wise. And I think that's when they start to bring that , you know , pinata making into my art practice. And just I made a few of them over one summer. And from there I just , you know , that was back in 2015. And I've been making them nonstop since then.

S2: When you were talking about how you were drawn to this idea that so much time was put into them and they were made to be destroyed.

S3: There's like a balance that you find with have making. I feel like you have to be able to have the strength and be able to work this tough material like cardboard where you have to bend and cut. For me , it's a moment where I'm impulsive when I'm building those the structure at least. But when it's like cutting it and adding. A tissue paper. I think that's when they have to relax and channel more of that meditative state in that process.


S3: Those are more stories and and personal narratives which kind of takes the pinata into that more conceptual approach. But yeah , I feel like it's it's one of those things that people are starting to see the pinata as that object , that it's a sculpture and it's not just the thing you see in the party and you break. And I think that's been lovely to see that evolution.


S3: There's violence and joy when it comes to the pinata , the joy of seeing a beautifully crafted superhero or colorful character that ends up being beaten up and destroyed. I feel like that connection goes in my artwork by telling those difficult topics in the way that people associate pinatas and the like. I said , a joyful way. So they're not intimidated to approach the pinata. Once they approach the pinata and they realize the the theme behind that pinata is when there's like this sense of contemplating the message behind it and generating dialogue out of that. So for me , to me , it makes sense to be able to tell political messages through the pinatas or tell tough stories about anything being this militarized border and being a woman and having to navigate both. I think it's it's kind of like a good way to ease in an audience and then , like I mentioned , create dialogue and maybe even empathy for for others.

S2: So right now , we are surrounded by dozens of pinatas in a museum.

S3: But this exhibition makes it very special because I get to share it with other artists who have been , you know , developing this new medium in a way , you know , in a way , I think we all consider ourselves pioneers of making pinata art. Before that , it was probably a few of us like , you know , different parts of the country. But this show brought us together. And not only that , but we're able to understand each other's processes what what other stories they got to tell and , you know , appreciate each other as artists , as part of this community , and also giving that voice to like a group of , of , you know , craft people that never been recognized , that their work has been undervalued , underpaid. You know , we see pinatas at Walmart , at Target and all those , you know , big chain stores. And I think that or at least I hope that with having this exhibition with as many pinatas and artists , that we can maybe promote buying from local pinata makers who have been doing this for many generations , who brought their craft from Mexico or from other parts of South America or Central America. You know , I think it's it's been a beautiful opportunity in that sense.

S2: So pinatas are made to be destroyed. And the Minga has just acquired two of your pieces for their permanent collection. What does that mean for you to take these objects into a museum's permanent collection ? Well.

S3: This is an honor. I never thought a pinata would ever be part of a museum. Permanent collection. But also , it's been like part of this , like , delirious dream that I've had since I was 12 , where I wanted a safe pinata. I wanted to find a way to , like , preserve them forever. And and this is like basically accomplishing that , you know , it's like these two pieces are going to live on forever. But also , as I was researching , like , how many institutions have pinatas and unfortunately not that many. They have paper. Objects , but it's really nice to see that finally there's going to be representation for pinatas. And I think that makers , you know , traditional pinata makers are going to feel that sense of honor , that their artwork , their craft has been represented through a museum's collection.

S1: That was Diana Benavides , Pinata artist , whose work you can see in the group Exhibition Pinatas , The High Art of Celebration at the Mené through the end of the month. This is KPBS Midday edition. We're talking about arts and culture events this weekend from Coachella to local exhibitions. Our guest is KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. So , Julia , this is a big weekend for music. And , you know , if you're up for a road trip , you can catch the first weekend of Coachella , which starts Friday. Whether you head out to the desert or watch it on the official livestream for a Coachella , which sounds good to me.

S2: They're the headliners for each day. But a little further down the lineup on Friday , actor Idris Elba will be doing a DJ set. There's Gorillaz and the Desert Bird Singers. They also perform last year and they'll kind of kick things off and honor the land on Saturday. There's boygenius always. Never a god or squirrel. And the Linda Lindas are totally on my radar. And on Sunday , Sudan archives Alex G. Blood and Bjork , who will be playing with an orchestra arrangements from the last 30 years. You can. And side note , it wasn't 30 years ago , but I did see Bjork when she played at Coachella in 2002 , so a long time ago. But she was incredible. It's also going to livestream all six stages of both weekends , so it's a little bit easier to stay hydrated from your couch.

S1: So while we're out in the Coachella Valley for the festival , the big outdoor art installations from Desert X are still on view.

S2: There's a dozen artists. These are large scale outdoor installations and huge sculptures. Some of the highlights for me are Matt Johnson sleeping figure. It's made out of like a dozen full size freight containers shaped like a like a reclining figure. It's amazing. And you can walk right up to it. You can walk underneath it and it's set against like San Jacinto with snow on it. There's also Turquoise Dyson's liquid , a place. This is another standout for me. You can actually climb on this one. There's also a set of billboards of photography by Terry Nichols , who was killed in police custody in January. So I will add that there's a lot of driving and walking involved to see a lot of these , but they're really worth a look.

S4: All right. One more.

S1: There's a special pop up of paintings by the late American artist Wayne Thibeault , famous for those simple pie and ice cream paintings.

S2: Yeah , And there's actually one of those ice cream paintings that's going to be on view. It's at the gallery in La Jolla. It's a pop up exhibition that was made in collaboration with the Peter Thibeault Gallery in San Francisco. It'll only be here until the 22nd. And what I love about Tebow's art is the way that he captures these ordinary things like that pie , like that ice cream. And there's about 10 or 11 pieces in the show , including some of his figurative pieces. There's landscapes , there's freeway scenes. And then one of my favorites is a very tiny painting called for Sandwiches. And it's exactly what you think it is.

S5: All right. Very.

S1: I'm hungry. I'm going to go have lunch now.

S5: We'll have details on all of these and more arts events at our website at

S1: Slash Arts. You can also.

S5: Sign up for.

S1: Julia's weekly arts newsletter. I've been speaking with KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon. EVANS Julia , thanks.

S5: Thank you. Jade.

S2: Jade. Have a good weekend.

S6: You too.

"Sleeping Figure" by artist Matt Johnson is a site-specific sculpture made of shipping containers, shown in an Apr. 1, 2023 photo. It's on view at Desert X in Palm Springs through May 7, 2023.
Julia Dixon Evans
"Sleeping Figure" by artist Matt Johnson is a site-specific sculpture made of shipping containers, shown in an Apr. 1, 2023 photo. It's on view at Desert X in Palm Springs through May 7, 2023.

On KPBS Midday Edition we speak with local cross-border artist Diana Benavídez, whose piñatas are featured in the Mingei International Museum as part of their exhibition, “Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration.”

Also, Coachella, the multi-weekend outdoor music festival in Indio, kicks off this weekend. Then, we talk about Desert X, a site-specific art festival also taking place in the Coachella Valley. Finally, a special pop-up of paintings by late American artist Wayne Thiebaud.