My marionettes are finished, now I find the task at hand of photographing them and hopefully in the near future making brief 13 second clips of their escapades. But thus far I have been hampered by having only two arms; awaiting the husband to act as studio assistant.
The image that follow are those I have managed solo.
Detail of the Axis Mundi against a fiery backdrop of Xibalba, the underworld.
The Axis Mundi with the head of the slain Maize God
The Hero Twins strung, ready to perform.
They are incredibly photogenic, I feel I cannot take credit for them as they seem to have come forth on their own.
The simple-minded God of Death, he also poses in a delightful way; he is quite a funny fellow.
When I manage to score some stage hands I will post some tableaux , until that time ,be well, Lg
It seems like ages ago when Clive Hicks-Jenkins sent out a puppet challenge (HERE)to the folks who follow him. My natural inclination to jump right in has been thwarted by my keen phobia of the third dimension. I am a painter and I have had very little luck with fashioning objects in the round. I allowed myself some slack in that puppets can be crude and terribly effective, but still…
I had been ruminating about how I wanted the figures to present themselves, oil sketches, watercolor drawings, on and on, just not putting idea to armature. I ended that this week and the following is the unfinished results. Once again I am working with archetypes from the Popol Vuh, the Hero Twins, their slain father,the Maize God and the Axis Mundi (the World Tree)plays a supporting role.
starting off with an idea for the Hero Twins (detail from one of my watercolor paintings),
a quick sketch to figure out logistics
the armature-I love this image
working out the figures in ever reliable Sculpey
thus far, I ran out of aforementioned Sculpey, off to supply shop…
I used fine steel wool , applied to uncured medium, it bake right in perfectly.
Before the heroic fellows there was fittingly the World Tree. I had dreamt of this Axis Mundi , putting dreamscape to panel.
it was just a matter of applying wire and tin foil to an old can ; kindergarten craft class at its most lively.
I enjoyed playing with a form, gnarly trees with anthropomorphic features that I frequently employ in other disciplines; all with the aid of ubiquitous Sculpey.
First day after a few weeks of happily fussing with our new home to be back at the easel; just the smell of the linseed oil brings me joy.
I have been working out a large and complex composition and in so doing one of the details has caught my attention.I have decided to make this detail a painting in of itself.
In many ways I hesitate to start this large canvas until after our upcoming trip to Mexico City and most especially a pilgrimage to Teotihuacan.
Not surprisingly the larger painting deals with a struggle between the Old Gods and the New. Of particular inspiration is the Gnostic concept of the envious Demiurge Yaldebaoth (Yahwah) who wishes to curtail man’s access to the Tree of Knowledge. Part of my composition might or might not include a reference to this most familiar narrative, but in the mean time I was inspired to craft a painting from the sketch.
My interest in this subject is not in the tired misogynistic trope of downfall of Man at the hands of the willful Eve. Instead I want to depict that moment of knowledge as a celebration, of Eve, of Adam, of the poor maligned serpent, and the glee and blessings of the Old True Gods (depicted in the roots of my Axis Mundi). This interest may be part of my ongoing desire to free myself from the Judea-Christian nonsense that has haunted me since boyhood. Early on I thought it ridiculous that an All-Knowing Creator would wish to stingily hold onto his wisdom, leaving his creation naked, stupid and merely content to worship Him.
sketching in And the Old Gods Were Pleased
Part of the composition for the afore mentioned larger painting has involved some “character” studies:
The Axis Mundi
For now I am happy to be painting, loosening up a bit, just happy to paint as I can and as I feel fit.
That might be the most difficult challenge of expression, being true.
As is consistent with my temperament , when faced with a rather daunting task (in this case an alphabet primer), I start at the beginning and soldier on. Hence, “A” is for the Axis Mundi.
In Mesoamerican culture, the Axis Mundi, essentially the World Tree, is situated at the center of the Earth. It is truly a cosmic being, with its branches kissing Heaven and its roots finding their way to the bowels of Hell. Traditionally the World Tree is thought to be the glorious Ceiba tree, the link provided is well worth a glimpse or two. I remember this beautiful tree from our time living in Ft.Lauderdale. It is a perfect tree for me, close to nude save for ferocious thorns;instead of pedestrian foliage , the Ceiba rewards visitors with fabulous orchid-like flowers, often hot pink. It is quite simply a stunning tree, no wonder it is the national tree of modern Guatemala.
All that said, I did not depict the fantastic Ceiba, I chose instead an odd little tree that we have fallen in love at the Cactus Garden of Balboa Park here in San Diego. I don’t know what this curious specimen is, we haven’t located an identification plate, but I will research further. What is apparent is its great age, probably pushing a century mark, which is curious as it is a very tiny little tree.
This is my interpretation of the odd little charmer.
And this is the tree as we know it.
To give a sense a scale, here is the dear tree with David’s equally dear Aunt Lydia, a wee little woman, 5’2″ or so.
I’m working through the alphabet, I think I will be more random than my initial inclination if for no other reason than aesthetics. Given the scope of the endeavor, there is bound to be stylistic progression as I delve forward. I think the primer will possess a more consistent aesthetic if I jump about. That said, “H” is drawn out, Hun Hunahpu, the Maize God. I will present that when complete.
I think this will be a fun ( and exhausting) project, I have been fantasizing about the frontispiece. My conceit is a primer of New Spain to be presented to Charles V, I want the frontispiece to be full of that overblown false modesty and groveling found in period documents.
Back in March with a batch of “paper dolls” (my mother-in-law’s description of my maquettes) in front of me,I created a composition that I thought might be suitable for a painting. The painting ,to be part of a cycle devoted to the Mayan creation myth, the Popol vuh. Working from the above mentioned composition I set about creating some sketches; discovering I enjoyed certain elements of each, I came up with what is now (for now) a final composition .
The scene depicts the moment in the Underworld Xibalba when the freshly sacrificed Maize God, Hun Hunahpu is placed upon a calabash tree (some interpretations mention the tree as the World Tree-the Axis Mundi). The orthodox depiction of the scene is one in which only his head is placed amongst the branches; as I have a difficult time resisting the full form, I took some liberties. Mayan scholars take heed.
With our hero dangling like strange fruit, the Xibalba princess Xquic searches out this forbidden treasure (sounds familiar?). The Maize God upon encountering the Princess spits into her hand (subtle romantic move on his part) and from this spittle the Hero Twins are miraculously conceived , one more virgin birth in the canon of world mythologies. It is this scene I depict, one where the infant Hero Twins float between their parents; soon the Princess will depart the gloom of the Underworld for the sunshine of the living earth. A new adventure will begin for all of the characters.
The following is a detail of the Maize God,
This is of the Hero Twins, my inspiration was the many early Renaissance depictions of the Annunciation in which the Christ Child is depicted as this wee little babe floating within a nimbus of light.
And at last, the Princess ( with her demonic cousin Ralph).
With that I close, having attempted to depict an epic tale of wrathful demon-gods, a virtuous savior, a virgin birth and heroic infants on a rather limited 20 by 30 inch canvas.
I am now working on a primer, a primer of New Spain. The first letter of course being “A”, will be devoted to the Axis Mundi. So far it looks like it will be handsome.
Given that Holy Week has just passed, I feel that Limbo is a good metaphor for how I am feeling.
Like the Savior I have been spending the last few days in the land of uncertainty. This current painting has been a struggle, as I mentioned acrylic is challenging for me, it puts me on edge. Rather pitiful to be so easily emotionally influenced- by a little tube of pretty color.
Last evening, in the wee hours, the painting began to make sense, today I will begin in oil, the underpainting is complete, at least for my needs.
Good Friday was spent in the studio, I am not traditionally religious, but I am culturally Roman Catholic. Good Friday is my favorite holy day, the reflective quality of the day suits my temperament . I spent the day drawing Christ upon the cross. My pagan maquette of the Maize God serving as inspiration, I love how his neck looks so broken and defeated , the 3 pm moment.
The following are images of the painting thus far, as mentioned this is the underpainting stage.
The following is a detail of the underworld princess Xquic gazing upon the Maize God, Hun Hunahpu.
I like the demon.
The inspiration for the Gate of Hell is from the Parco die Mostri, for more info follow this link.
That is the progress so far, will begin painting very soon – after the breakfast dishes are tended to.
Take care, and thank you for all the kind words of support.
Now that I have cobbled together a few maquettes (eager to make a few more), I feel I have sufficient a crew to compose a composition . I am hoping to depict that fateful moment when the princess Xquic miraculously finds her self with child – twins actual, the Hero Twins. Making use of the World Tree maquette along with the Maize God and Xquic, I spent much of yesterday just arranging little paper dolls , it was a great deal of fun. Last evening and much of today was sketching out ideas. Two, thus far, are beginning to pass muster. The rest, well it is safe to say my garbage can runneth over.
I was trying for a rather sickly, Underworld palette without relying heavily upon hellfire and brimstone.
I think I like this composition of the Maize God, it is a bit blatantly sensual, but I also feel it conveys the vigor of a corpse that is able to miraculously impregnate the virgin princess without ever actually touching her. The Hero Twins are seen being transported to the motherland; an idea lifted from early Renaissance representations of the Annunciation. Red snakes in Aztec iconography represent sexual love- World Trees, Virgin mothers, dead Saviors, why pass on yet another Judeo-Christian reference?
The following is another compositional option.
In this composition I really play upon the princess’s lineage to the Underworld, albeit with a strong nod to Dante. I like the princess in this composition far more than the first. I had wanted a placid virgin, but the first just looks insipid. I’m loving the Maize God a bit less. I will pull the maquettes out tomorrow and fiddle around some more. Until that time here is a detail of the Princess.
Detail of Princess Xquic and her demonic cousin Ralph.
The Axis Mundi, also referred to as the World Tree, is according to legend found at the very center of the world.
For the Maya the Axis Mundi was the yaxché,the Ceiba tree which is the national tree of modern Guatemala. It is a spiny tree of spare beauty, little foliage but gorgeous orchid like flowers. I know this tree well from my time living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
According to the Popol huh,the head of the slain Maize God was placed upon the branches of the Calabash tree where it nestled in amongst the gourd-like fruit.
This maquette is my attempt at depicting the Axis Mundi, that fateful moment when the slain Hun Hunahpu meets and miraculously impregnates the Underworld princess Xquic.
The construction of the World Tree proved to be quite complicated, I had hoped to post it last evening but I was still snipping away; it “branches” out to almost 36 inches. But after using many brads I have put together the first tableau.
Tradition has only the head of the Maize God placed upon the branches, but I chose the full figure ( at least for this composition). The visual reference to another slain Savior was too difficult to resist.
Please pardon the terrible quality of the image, my I-phone is not the best tool for recording, but it is readily available. This image is of Xquic looking upon the Maize God.
As I mentioned the Ceiba tree is considered to be the inspiration for the World Tree. It is a beautiful tree, one I would love to illustrate, but I chose an abstract tree, all prickly spines and entrapment for the very reason that I want to avoid just illustrating the tale. I would be a very happy camper to create a botanical drawing of the tree but the Popol vuh is a cosmic tale and I wanted to represent that sense of timelessness.
I will soon begin a painting (deciding upon medium) , I will also continue to create a few more figures ( I want to rework the owls for instance); but creating this tableau is satisfying.