Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration

The Craft in America Center is pleased to present a dynamic exhibition of about fifty works made by fifteen artists and artist collectives from across the U.S. and Mexico, which focuses on the overlooked craft of handmade piñatas and piñata-based art objects.

The Craft in America Center is pleased to present a dynamic exhibition of about fifty works made by fifteen artists and artist collectives from across the U.S. and Mexico, which focuses on the overlooked craft of handmade piñatas and piñata-based art objects.


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9/4/202 1 — 12/4/2021


This exhibiton took place at the Craft in America Center in Los Angeles

from September 4 - December 4, 2021.

Text by Emily Zaiden

Photos by Madison Metro

Designed by Joan Mace

Support was provided by a

grant from the City of Los

Angeles Department of

Cultural Affairs.

Additional support for

the Craft in America

Center is provided by the

Los Angeles County

Board of Supervisors

through the Los Angeles

County Department of

Arts and Culture.



Diana Benavidez

Roberto Benavidez

Sita Bhaumik

Mari Carson

Amorette Crespo/Party Girl Piñatas


Justin Favela

Francisco Palomares

Yesenia Prieto/Piñata Design Studio

Josué Ramírez

Lorena Robletto/Amazing Piñatas

Isaías D. Rodríguez

Ana Serrano

Giovanni Valderas


Piñatas: The High Art of


Images of the Piñata District, 2021

Piñatas, ubiquitous and often the focal point of parties and festive occasions

across the U.S., are handcrafted and ephemeral objects that signify happiness,

joy, release, and celebration. This exhibition touches on the role that they play

in modern material culture and how they are made to embody social

commentary, along with the ways that artists address piñatas as conceptual

and technical launching points for their vision.

The work of traditional piñata artisans is presented alongside the creations of

artists who reinvent and reinterpret the piñata through engaging sculptural


Images of Lorena Robletto’s Studio, 2021

practices. The contemporary artists featured in this exhibition reconsider the

techniques, materials, form, function, and notion of the piñata, forming a new

language for expression.

Piñatas are a deeply rooted Mexican tradition that has become widespread

and beloved across cultures. Piñatas are accessible by nature and made from

relatively humble materials. They are shapeshifters that can be created to take

any form, be that of a creature, shape, figure, or idea. Considering their

popularity in our lives and how many memories are made around piñata play,

this contemporary form of cultural craft has been relatively unexamined.


Installation Image of Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration, 2021

As creators of material culture, craft makers design and build the relics of our

everyday, modern world. This exhibition touches on the ephemeral and

performative nature of certain forms of craft. Craft today plays a part in our

traditions, our celebrations, our relationships, and it deepens how we experience

life, even when it is destroyed or discarded after use.


Installation Image of Piñatas: the High Art of Celebration, 2021

Piñatas are intertwined with childhood experiences, gatherings of family and

friends, and celebratory turning points in life—all of which have become much

more precious to us in this era of COVID. As markers of these events, piñatas have

new resonance and meaning today. They continue to be shaped to reflect

changing times. This exhibition spotlights makers who creatively generate these

objects in response to our shifting world. This contemporary form of cultural craft

has been relatively unexamined.


Piñata Origins

Prior to becoming deeply rooted in Mexican

culture, many theorize that piñatas may have

their earliest origins in China. Although the

history of dissemination remains to be

examined, it is possible that Marco Polo and

early trade explorers saw a Chinese spring

festival tradition in which a clay oxen, filled

with seed, was shattered to celebrate the

beginning of the harvest season. This tradition

may have been imported to Northern Italy

and then to Spain, where ceramic vessels filled

with treats were broken around the time of

Lent. From Spain, Catholic missionaries

carried this tradition to the New World, where

they continued making breakable, treat-filled

vessels that were used for religious

celebrations that were part of the

indoctrination process of Indigenous peoples.

The classic seven-pointed star piñata reflects

this colonial history in that the points are said

to signify the seven deadly sins, while the act

of smashing the piñata represents the triumph

of good over evil.

Lorena Robletto’s Studio, 2021.

Piñata District

Los Angeles’s dedicated, multi-block stretch

of piñata shops is a hub for piñata importing

and wholesale distribution for the entire U.S.

Shops in this unique, dedicated corridor, sell

candy and various party supplies in addition

to piñatas made in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Piñata of a Burro (Donkey) from the Piñata District,



Piñatas as Fantasy

Roberto Benevidez, Installation Image, 2021

Roberto Benavidez

Benavidez is a figurative sculptor originally from South Texas, now based in

Los Angeles. After studying bronze casting at Pasadena City College,

Benavidez later switched to paper because it was a more accessible

medium. This material shift led him to focus on the piñata technique, a

familiar form from childhood.

Benavidez plays with underlying themes of ephemerality, race, and sin in his

impeccably crafted works. He explores medieval illuminated manuscripts for

inspiration to envision his magical beasts and creatures.


Roberto Benavidez

Illuminated Piñata No. 2, 2017

Paper, paperboard, glue, wire, crepe paper

Roberto Benavidez

Javelina Girl (Illuminated Piñata No. 14), 2019

Paper, paperboard, glue, wire, crepe paper


Roberto Benavidez

Illuminated Piñata No. 5, 2017

Paper, paperboard, glue, wire, crepe paper

Roberto Benavidez

Illuminated Piñata No. 1, 2017

Paper, paperboard, glue, wire, crepe paper

Roberto Benavidez

Illuminated Hybrid No. 2, 2019

Paper, paperboard, glue, wire, crepe paper

Roberto Benavidez

Illuminated Hybrid No. 3, 2019

Paper, paperboard, glue, wire, crepe paper

Roberto Benavidez

Illuminated Hybrid No. 1, 2019

Paper, paperboard, glue, wire, crepe paper



Roberto Benavidez

Piñathkos (left to right) No. 25, 20, 30, 26, 19, 16, 25, 18, 17, 2,

24, 22, 2015

Newspaper, cereal box, wheat paste, party streamers, glue, wire

Piñatas in 2D

Beyond the piñata as a three-dimensional object, piñatas have become

conceptual and political subject matter for contemporary artists who depict

them in their painting practices. Other artists adopt their textural qualities

and surface techniques to create two-dimensional artworks.

Left: Francisco Palomares, Chulo and Guapo, 2021

Cardboard, newspaper, tissue paper

Right: Francisco Palomares, Agarrate Papa, 2020

Oil on canvas

Francisco Palomares

Palomares is a first-generation Boyle Heights native who is inspired by the

Spanish master painters and the way that brush strokes can convey visual

narratives. He reframes present-day social struggles through the lens of art

historical precedent.

Palomares highlights the beauty of the mundane and ordinary by taking his

subjects out of context, making them worthy of a more thoughtful look.


Detail: Francisco Palomares

Agarrate Papa, 2020

Oil on canvas


Detail: Francisco Palomares

Piñata y Dulces, 2016

Oil on canvas

Piñatas as Landscape

Justin Favela

Baño de los Pescaditos (after José María Velasco), 2019

Tissue paper and glue

Justin Favela

Favela is a Las Vegas artist best known for large-scale installations and sculptures

that manifest his interactions with American pop culture and the Latinx experience.

His painting series pays homage to the legacy of Spanish masterworks.


Roberto Benavidez

Moonrise Over Skunk Point, 2021

Paper, foam board, glue, wire, crepe paper

For his landscape piñatas, in this

case one of the pristine beaches

on Santa Rosa in the Channel

Islands, Benavidez uses the

feathery qualities of his paper

medium and crisp cuts to create

reflectivity, depth, perspective, and

variations of color and light.


Political Piñatas

Various artists use the medium of piñatas to express critical socio-political global

issues including, border policy, racism, and violence. Tapping into the physical and

cultural qualities of this medium informs their messages.

Diana Benavidez

La Guayina (from Vehículos Transfronterizos series), 2019

Poster board and tissue paper structure attached to a radio controlled motorized device

Diana Benavidez

Benavidez is a binational artist who explores piñata-making as a method of

expression and storytelling. Her piñatas reflect her experiences growing up along

the San Diego/Tijuana border, her identity, and culture. Her work is known for

introducing materials not commonly found in traditional piñatas including media

and technology.



Diana Benavidez

Border Crosser and La Pinche Migra (from Vehículos Transfronterizos series), 2019

Poster board and tissue paper structure attached to a radio controlled motorized device

Sita Bhaumik

Bhaumik uses art as a strategy to connect memory and history with the urgent

social issues of our time. Estamos Contra el Muro / We Are Against the Wall

was a collaborative project she led that was installed at Southern Exposure

gallery in San Francisco. In response to the 2016 election, a wall built of

hand-crafted piñatas in the form of cinder blocks was installed and ultimately,

at the close of the exhibition, community members gathered to destroy the

proxy wall as one would a piñata, in an act of defiance against the proposed

wall at the border of the US and Mexico.

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik in collaboration with Cece Carpio, La Pelanga, Norma Listman,

People’s Kitchen Collective, Piñatas Las Morenitas Martínez, and Little Piñata Maker

Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, 2016

Paper mache and paint


Isaías D. Rodríguez

Isaías Rodríguez, Installation of resilience, 2021.

Originally from Boyle Heights, CA, Rodríguez is a multimedia artist known as

Little Piñata Maker. Several years ago, he made his first piñata to hang from

his car’s rear view mirror and he now creates limited edition series and custom

orders, each piñata no larger than about 4 inches tall and wide.

Isaías Rodríguez

resilience, 2021

Tissue paper, acrylic paint, cardstock


Piñatas and Pop Culture

Piñatas are a form of modern craft that continues to adapt fluidly and respond

instantaneously to culture at any given moment in time. Piñateros are able to use

paper and adhesive to build ephemeral tributes to our heroes, most-loved

characters, and favorite foods and just as easily, to form likenesses of the most

controversial figures and factors in popular culture, politics and society.

Ana Serrano, Installation Image, 2021

Ana Serrano

Serrano is a first-generation Mexican American artist originally from Los Angeles and

now based in Portland. Inspired by the intersection of her dual cultural identities, she

is best known for using brightly-colored cardboard and paper to highlight elements of

Latinx culture.


Ana Serrano

Piñatitas (left to right) Jesus Malverde, Juan Gabriel, Irma Serrano, María del Barrio,

Walter Mercado, 2012

Cardboard, tissue paper, acrylic, graphite, wire


Ana Serrano

Piñatitas (left to right) Julio César Chávez, Gloria Trevi, Cantínflas, El Chapulín Colorado,


Cardboard, tissue paper, acrylic, graphite, wire

Piñatas and Permanence

Piñatas are ephemeral by nature. What happens when an artist or maker

creates a piñata that is not intended to be destroyed? How does that change

how we perceive and value this medium and its meaning in our world today?

Yesenia Prieto, Mia Baez, and Andrew Munguia

All the Glitters, 2021

Cardboard base, metallic red mylar, foil, resin crystals, plastic wire

Yesenia Prieto/Piñata Design Studio

Founded by Yesenia Prieto and co-owned with Mia Baez, La Piñata Design

Studio is led by third generation Los Angeles piñata makers and designers

reinventing the traditional craft of piñata making through their custom piñatas,

sculptures, masks, and installations. They create larger than life installation

projects for companies and museums such as LACMA, Microsoft, Google, and

celebrities such as Rihanna.



Yesenia Prieto, Mia Baez, and Andrew Munguia

In God We Trust, 2021

Cardboard strips, papier mache, satin wrap tissue, acrylic paint, repurposed clock, metallic

mylar, LED lights

Piñatas as Commentary

Installation Image of Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration, 2021

Giovanni Valderas

Dallas native mixed media artist Giovanni Valderas incorporates and

deconstructs elements of the traditional piñata in order to transform the piñata’s

original identity as one of gratuitous celebration, into one of cultural construct.


Giovanni Valderas

Casita Triste (Sad Little House), 2017

Tissue paper, cardboard, glue

The Casita Triste series is a guerrilla site-specific project tha draws

inspiration from the brightly painted homes found in predominantly Latinx

communities, which are quickly disappearing due to displacement and

gentrification. Through the inclusion of cartoonish anthropomorphic

elements, each piñata house speaks to the fragility, history, and

experiences of the marginalized community.


Giovanni Valderas Casita Triste workshop with highschool students at the Craft

in America Center.

Giovanni Valderas

No Hay Pedo (Canary), 2016

Newsprint, acrylic paint, Tyvek, mulberry paper on wood

Giovanni Valderas

A Marginal Universe, 2019

Cardstock, cardboard, glue, wood, latex paint


Piñatas as Performance

Piñatas are intended to be interactive, crafted objects. They are traditionally meant

to be suspended and smashed as the highlight activity of a party. All party-goers

have the chance to participate in that performative act. How can the piñata

become a more broadly performative medium for art?

Josué Ramírez

Piñata People (Orange), 2021

Found object and tissue paper

Josué Ramírez

Josué Ramírez AKA Rawmirez is a multidisciplinary artist working in installation,

craft, video, and performance. Rawmirez works in the Rio Grande Valley, along

the Texas/Mexico border, and his current work investigates relationships

between personal identity and location.


Piñatas and Cultural Tradition

Lorena Robletto (Amazing Piñatas)

Seven Point Star, 2021

Cardboard, newspaper, tissue paper, staples, flour paste


Lorena Robletto/Amazing Piñatas

Amazing Piñatas was formed by owner Lorena Robletto nearly a decade ago.

After consulting for immigrant-owned businesses and serving as a social worker

for immigrant families, Robletto turned her focus towards the artistry of piñatas

and set up a shop in the Los Angeles Piñata District. Her studio and storefront

is now located in Mid-City, where her team creates custom piñatas of any scale

along with ready-made piñatas and various signature designs. She frequently

makes props and commissions for the entertainment industry and other branded


Lorena Robletto (Amazing Piñatas)

Covid Piñata, 2021

Cardstock, tissue paper, cardboard

Lorena Robletto (Amazing Piñatas)

Alebrije, 2021

Paper, paint, paste



The Collaborative Piñata is a long-term project to establish a dialogue between

Purepecha crafts people and cultural agents from the region of Baja California,

Mexico and Southern California, U.S.A. The border city of Rosarito, Baja

California, is home to a community of up to 250 families who migrated north

more than 1,500 miles from their ancestral homeland located in the island of

Janitzio, Michoacan, and adopted the making of piñatas as their craft and main

source of living.

Dignicraft in collaboration with María Rosa Guzmán Soto, Eduviges Solorio Morales,

José Raúl Guzmán Soto, Nadia Iliana Guzmán Solorio, Bryan Guzmán Solorio, Evelyn

Guzmán Solorio, María Amparo Guzmán Soto, Guadalupe Solorio Vargas, José Vivaldo

Jacobo Guzmán, María De la Luz Solorio Morales, Javier González Cortez, Edith

González Solorio, Eréndira Pineda Campos and Leonel Solorio Morales

Cheremati (fisherman on canoe) and Nanachi (woman), 2015

Cardboard, newspaper, tissue paper, staples, flour paste


Piñatas for This Day and Age

Amorette Crespo (Party Girl Piñatas)

Folklorico Dancer, 2021

Cardboard, tissue paper, cardstock

Amorette Crespo/Party Girl Piñatas

Amorette Crespo began making piñatas in 2017, when her daughter requested

a Selena themed piñata for her 10th birthday. Crespo taught herself through

practice, trial and error, and has been making custom piñatas ever since. From

concept, to design, to prototype, to shopping for supplies to the finished

product, Crespo is a one-woman operation. Crespo makes all of the piñatas in

her home in El Sereno, in Los Angeles, CA, but she has customers all over the



Amorette Crespo (Party Girl Piñatas)

Hot Cheetos, 2021

Cardboard, tissue paper, cardstock, twine

Amorette Crespo (Party Girl Piñatas)

Selena, 2021

Cardboard, tissue paper, cardstock, twine

Amorette Crespo (Party Girl Piñatas)

Zoom Laptop, 2021

Cardboard, tissue paper, cardstock, twine



Installation Image of Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration, 2021

Mari Carson

Carson is a costume and sound designer based in the Sacramento area. She

began making piñatas in 2014:

Seven years ago I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and the treatment was a

radical hysterectomy. As a response, my friends threw a farewell party for my

uterus. I made a piñata in the shape of a uterus, filled it with glitter, condoms,

lube and the tampons I would never need again and destroyed it with a baseball


Since then, I wanted to share this awesome piñata with the world. This piñata is

made to order to celebrate your uterus or the uterus of someone you love.

Mari Carson (Plaid Hamster Knits)

Uterus Piñata, 2021

Papier mache, newsprint, wire,

craft paper, glue, crepe paper,

cardboard, coat hanger


Lisbeth Palacios

Palacios’s All Party Art is a party supply business that specializes in piñatas.

Palacios began her business in Venezuela and is now based in Tampa, Florida.

Lisbeth Palacios (All Party Art)

COVID Vaccine, 2021

Cardboard, crepe paper, silicone glue


Images of the Piñata District, 2021



Lorena Robletto’s Studio, 2021

CRAFT IN AMERICA is a Los Angeles-based non-profit with a

mission to promote and advance original craft through

educational programs and resources in all media–accessible to

all via a PBS documentary series that has aired since 2007, an

archival website, as well as in-person at the Craft in America

Center (the Center) in Los Angeles. We are dedicated to the

exploration and celebration of craft, the work of the hand, and

craft’s impact on our nation’s evolving cultural heritage and


The Center is a micro-museum, library, and programmatic

space where visitors engage directly with art, artists, and

ideas. We give voice to traditional and contemporary craft,

ranging from functional to purely conceptual, through personal

engagement. We organize exhibitions, artist talks, scholarly

lectures, a reading group, book signings, hands-on workshops,

demonstrations, student field trips, concerts, and



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