They’re big, colorful, sculpted from various mystical creatures and a nod to Mexican folk art. 

“An Alebrije is an incredible creation that comes from 20th Century Mexico,” said Cesáreo Moreno, visual arts dir., chief currator, National Museum of Mexican Art.

The imaginary creatures have been brought to life for decades by Mexican artists and more recently popularized by the Disney movie “Coco.”

They are imaginary creatures that came into existence through a dream had by artist Pedro Linares in Mexico City. 

“Some time in the 1950s, Don Pedro was very sick, he had a fever, and according to him, he felt that he passed to the other side. And the world he had encountered was one of these incredible creatures. They had all different kinds of parts of other animals. His fever broke and he felt that it was the Alebrije that helped bring him back to life,” said Moreno.

“He woke up from his feverish dream and he was saying the word ‘Alebrije, Alebrije, Albrije.’ He soon started making these creatures that he saw out of carton, out of paper. Since then, his three sons and their families have carried on this tradition, and they make Alebrijes that are gorgeous. They are collected by museums such as ours ,as well as museums in Japan, in Europe, all over the world,” Moreno added.

Mexican artists like Alberto Moreno Fernandez have also been carrying on the tradition. 

“Los alebrijes son sueños materializados,” said Alberto Moreno Fernandez, artist.

He said Alebrijes are simply materialized dreams. 

Moreno Fernandez is one of six artists commissioned by the Mexican Cultural Center DuPage for the latest display at Cantigny Park, where 49 Alebrije sculptures of all shapes and sizes fill the gardens. 

“The artists started building these last fall and they were shipped up here into large container trucks in May,” said Sara Phalen, vice president of the Mexican Cultural Center DuPage.

The pieces were made to withstand the weather. They were put together on-site and given the occasional touch-up. 

“They’re all paper mache, they have a metal structure, and then it’s almost chicken wire that’s got five layers of paper and two layers of a harder cardboard before they get the paint and lacquer,” Phalen added.

For Moreno Fernandez, this is his passion and something he has enjoyed doing for the past 17 years. 

“It’s like bringing a gift from Mexico for people here in the United States so they can appreciate them,” said Moreno Fernandez.

The exhibit will be at Cantigny Park through early November.

The sculptures will then be taken apart and donated to various local organizations, museums and schools and available to be loaned out to other entities.