Posted on 29 January, 2018
On September 6, 1925, in Chicago, Illinois, Hedwing and Oscar Yampolsky celebrated the birth of their daughter, whom they named Mariana. Oscar was a sculptor, painter and cabinetmaker.Being an onky child, living in the countryside, Mariana’s childhood was solitary; her favourite pastimes were reading and listening to her grandafather’s stories. She enrolled in the University of Chicago to study Socoial Science, but in 1945, after the death of her father, she decided to travel to Mexico and study painting and sculpture at the Escuela Nacional de Pintura Escultura y Grabado La Esmeralda, in Mexico City. She was the first woman printmaker and member of the Taller de Gráfica Popular, an organization that distinguished itself for its fight against fascism and its social protest prints. From the start, Mariana Yampolsky travelled around the country, falling in love with its landscapes, its people and its culture. In 1958 she became a Mexican citizen. She went on to become an expert in Mexican popular traditions, especially those associated with textile crafts.
Hers was a prolific life devoted to art, and above all to the promotion of Mexico’s rich cultural heritage. In her own words: “If one loves the people, the country, one also loves everything that surrounds the human being. I think you have to love, really love the country you’re seeing”. Yampolsky was passionate about her country, Mexico; for her, any place in Mexico was interesting. In 1954 she took up photography, and 44 years later she had gathered a collection of nearly 70 thousand images of faces, rituals, houses and everyday life in places so remote in the countryside that no one had photographed them before. Her work was admired around the world through over 250 exhibitions and over 14 books.
This was not enough for her restless spirit: she worked at the same time as founder and professor at the Centro de Enseñanza de Lenguas Extranjeras of the Politécnico Nacional; as co-publisher at the Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana; as collaborator at the Centro de Investigaciones de las Artesanías; at the Secretaría de Educación Pública she was coordinator and illustrator of the official textbooks that are distributed without cost to all public school pupils, as well as an editor of childrens books such as the Colibrí collection and a series of books to engage children with Mexican art; she also organized and promoted countless exhibitions and spaces for Mexican art and culture, both in Mexico and abroad.
She died of cancer on May 3, 2002. She was 77. Despite her illness, till the very end she kept her joyous spirit and her capacity for wonder at everything that surrounded her, just like when she explored places around her home in her bicycle as a child. Her work is the reflection of a life filled with her love for Mexico and its people.