Leonard Greco's somewhat consistent, often bumbling studio journal
Back to the Popol vuh Drawing board
There are multiple translations of the Popol vuh, many of them excellent, scholarly works by experts in the field of Mesoamerican art and culture embellished with imagery predictably appropriate to the rich history of the Maya people. I’ve had the good fortune to meet several of the scholars at Mesoamerican conferences, Mesoamerican and post conquest colonial art being a personal passion; these have been enriching, informative and inspiring experiences.
The translation that I have been illustrating the last year or so however is a bird of another (quetzal) feather, my intention is a retelling of a well told story through images- my own kind of images, imagined through the cultural prism and personal perspective of the re-telling bard, in this case, myself. My first experience with the Popol vuh was much like my imagined 17th c. Court artisan , one of ignorance to the actual originating culture, but sheer, spontaneous delight in the symbolic drama of the tale and expressing this delight in the cultural, visual language at hand- in this case a baroque puppet drama.
In the end the Popol vuh is simply one heck of a good yarn, akin to the gods of Olympus and Valhalla. I try to express that delight and the accessibility in the stories told within my narrative images.
Of which, more have been added.
My collaborating poet has added more verses since I had last considered the project complete a few months back :
Initially I admit to being chagrined, for I wanted to move forward with other projects that I have placed on hold. But I love this project deeply and truly, this theme, this inspiration, the Popol vuh has been my companion since 2013 when I first encountered the epic tale in a short animated film in a Mesoamerican class I had been attending. Immediately I was enchanted by this strangely familiar story and I began scribbling furiously in the darkened auditorium, doodling up ideas for fanciful puppet operas and traveling marionette theaters, 17th c. commedia hucksters , not unlike those in Hamlet, entertaining court after ennui weary court.
So to return to this beloved story is an opportunity to at last figure out how best to share my passion for these two heroic ball playing boys, their sainted mother and of course the hellish brood of daemonic pranksters.
The poet and I need to figure out how best to get this monster of book published , I had naively understood there was a publisher in the wings, it seems that isn’t the case. Self publishing, unless a small press can be secured, appears to be our option. A certain degree of apathy seems to have set in with my collaborator, thus far he seems convinced that there will be little interest in our work and perhaps out-and-out hostility to two non-Maya fellows creating this homage and as artists we’d be best off in just getting the book made and to just move on to our next project.
That is a dispiriting perspective and one I do not share. This is , to me, a special project, one close to my heart, an amazing story, one easily appreciated by Maya and non-Maya alike , a human story, one familiar with its brave heroes, powerful maternal figures, sacrifice, trials and redemptions …and of course the buffoonery of the Xibalban underlords. I’ll have to do some researching how best to get this undertaking out there, I’m ill prepared for this quest, I am unfamiliar with the jargon , with contracts, with preserving rights, with fees and commissions . But the road to Xibalba is made one foot step at a time.
I will need to reach out to those more acquainted with publishing, should I self-publish, using a platform such as Blurb? I would at least have more control over the aesthetics of the project as the one publisher my poet did contact insisted upon visual control of the cover, examples of which I have seen haven’t met my expectations. I have friends more familiar with this game, I’ll be reaching out to them, gathering options, opinions, suggestions. I have time, I have taken this long, what matters a few more months . But for now I have more drawings to make, of which, these few are the latest.
I will close with a proposal sketch for a solo exhibition from I think 2014. My proposal was a resounding dud, zero interest, so perhaps my poet is correct. However, all the more reason to put the Xibalba Variety Hour out there!
I am a painter and printmaker working towards creating a body of work that reflects my own developing aesthetic.
New work ,first link.
The second link is an on-line portfolio.
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2 thoughts on “Back to the Popol vuh Drawing board”
Leonard, I can tell from your words how much this project means to you. I know from my own experiences that a passion project such as this is likely to take many twists and turns, with enthusiasm waxing and waning as inevitable bumps in the road are encountered. I’m heartened to read that your creative flame has been rekindled and that you are determined to go on. I am unfamilar with the Popol Vuh, but feel the same spark of recognition that you did with my very brief encounters with this rich originary myth. You know that my curiosity was originally piqued when you told me about your approach to illustrating the project which was imagining yourself as an outsider looking at the Mayan culture from the seventeenth century courts of Europe. The clash between religions and cultures, First Nations and invaders, and the legacy this leaves behind across centuries is a highly emotive topic to tackle, of which you both seem well aware. I wish you well in your mission to publish the poems and umages, as in acknowledging and exploring these difficult intersections new understanding and insights may hopefully occur.
Thank you my friend, your encouraging words mean the world to me, especially now as I feel a bit adrift ; my drawing board my anchor. I have an email in response to yours swimming in my head, will touch base soon.