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XIMENEZ, BEATRICE VALDEZ

XIMÉNEZ, BEATRICE VALDEZ (1904–1989). Beatrice Valdez Ximénez, sculptor, was born in Graytown, Texas, on November 5, 1904, the youngest of five children of Juan and Josefa (Caballero) Valdez. She grew up in San Antonio and received no formal education. She married Pedro Ximénez in 1923, and the couple settled in Floresville, where they had one daughter and six sons. Beatrice Ximénez learned to work with cement while helping her husband produce and sell cement furniture fashioned to look like wood. In the 1930s Pedro Ximénez had learned the faux-wood technique from Dionicio Rodríguez and Sam Murray. In addition to furniture, the Ximénezes used the technique to make cement faux-wood buildings-a store, a gas station, a dance hall, cottages, and a barbecue pit-on their Floresville property. Eleven years after Pedro died (1956), with her children grown and having children of their own, Beatrice decided to use cement in a new way. Inspired by children's books, science fiction movies, and television nature programs, she began making creatures she called animales feos ("ugly animals"). She made her first sculpture, a dinosaur, at the request of one of her grandchildren, and her grandson Johnny Verduzco frequently helped her with the more strenuous parts of the sculpture process. She started by fashioning a framework of metal reinforcing rods, covered with mesh fastened with wire. She then coated this armature with three layers of cement, mixed with sand and dyed a bright color through a secret process. Ximénez ornamented her figures with an imaginative array of objects: scallop shells became a monster's skin, jeweled earrings doubled as alligator eyes, and a cow's skull was transformed into a zebra's head. She completed about fifty life-sized figures over a twenty-two-year period, forming a yard-art installation that has been described as a "bizarre wild kingdom," which included an elephant, a giraffe, a tiger, a beaver, a deer, a monkey, a two-headed dog, and other animals wild, domestic, and imaginary. Although her creative vision was unique, her installation was not an isolated phenomenon. A number of folk art environments made from odds and ends by untrained artists, frequently of advanced age, can be found across the nation. There are a number of these installations in Texas, most notably John Milkovisch's "beer can house" and Jefferson D. McKissack's Orange Show, both in Houston. An inexpensive and versatile medium, cement is a popular material in yard art throughout the United States, used in well-known sites such as the "Garden of Eden" by S. P. Dinsmoor in Lucas, Kansas, and Fred Smith's park of 200 concrete animals and figures in Phillips, Wisconsin. Several of Ximénez's sculptures were included in Handmade and Heartfelt, a 1986 touring exhibition organized by Texas Folklife Resources, and in 1987 she presented a workshop on cement sculpture at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio. Only a few other Texas women of Mexican descent, including Consuelo González Amezcua and Alice Dickerson Montemayor, have established reputations as folk artists. Beatrice Ximénez died on June 26, 1989. Many of her sculptures are in private collections.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Francis E. Abernethy, Folk Art in Texas, Publications of the Texas Folklore Society 45 (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1985). Gregg N. Blasdell, "The Grass-Roots Artist," Art in America, September-October 1968. Melanie Young, "Beatrice Ximenez: A Floresville Grandmother and Her `Animales Feos'," Domain, January-February 1990.

Kendall Curlee

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Kendall Curlee, "XIMENEZ, BEATRICE VALDEZ," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fxi01), accessed July 28, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.