The multi-colored Volkswagen Beetle sitting in the arrival terminal at the Denver International Airport (DIA) has been capturing the attention of Denver travelers all summer. But hurry up because if you want an up-close view of this one-of-a-kind museum piece decorated by Native American artisans from Mexico’s indigenous Huichol people, the last day to see the car-turned-artwork will be Aug. 31.
The Beetle vehicle has been encrusted with literally millions of colorful beads in the style of the Mexican Indian tribe known as the Huichol or Waxaritari. We didn’t ask how they know or who counted, but organizers claim that there are approximately 2,227,000 glass beads and fabric attached by hand to the car. The work was done by eight artists from two Huichol families who wanted to share their history, mythology and culture.
The Vochol name for the artwork came from the merger of the Mexican slang nickname for VW Beetle — “Vocho” — and the Huichol people. The exhibit, formally called “Vochol: Art on Wheels” was created by artists representing the Bautista family from Jalisco and the Ortiz family from Nayarit, Mexico. It took the artists about a year or some 9,000 hours to decorate the car using glass, plastic or metal beads pressed onto a wooden form covered in beeswax.
The Huichol are an ethnic group of western central Mexico, specifically in the Mexican states of Durango, Nayarit, Zacatecas and Jalisco. They typically use beads to create masks, bowls and figurines that often depict distinct patterns and symbols common in the Huichol religion.
The Consulate General of Mexico and the Mexican Cultural Center partnered with Denver Public Schools to share the artwork with local Colorado students and teachers for class assignments. Students viewed the VW and were encouraged to study the colors and patters and express their own responses creatively through art.
Before arriving in Denver this summer, the Vochol was first on display at the Washington-DC-based Smithsonian Institution’s American Indian Museum. It is being presented in collaboration with the Association of Friends of the Museo de Arte Popular and the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City, the Embassy of Mexico and the Mexican Cultural Institute.
On display in the Main Terminal at DIA, the artwork is free and open to the public and, of course, travelers and those picking up Denver visitors. After then, the Vochol vehicle will be shipped to Europe for another display. According to the Smithsonian, the car will continue on its international tour, and will eventually be sold at auction with the proceeds used to promote the work of other native Mexican artists.