The Rape of Tenochtitlan


Rape, the very word causes you to pause. I ruminated upon even using the word “rape” for this drawing, but no other word fully expressed the Conquest of New Spain by the Old. The use of the word rape is relatively common in Western art, one refers to the Rape of the Sabine Women and of course all of those frothy depictions of The Rape of Europa , a pink cheeked maiden astride gorgeous twinkly eyed white bulls. I wanted to play upon that theme and the word rape is an integral element of the concept. In this case Europa is doing the raping. 


The Rape of Tenochtitlan 


colored pencil on toned paper

18 by 24″

I’m gathering my thoughts, both visual and verbal, concerning  a project focusing upon Mesoamerica in general, Tenochtitlan specifically. But the historical elements are superficial in many ways as  I am primarily interested in identity  and perception , how one empire can so thoroughly misunderstand  one another , New Spain vs. Old Spain.  How we continue to misunderstand one another, be it racial tension, gender conflict, cops vs. Black Lives Matter, queers/straights, Muslims, you name it, if it ain’t “us” we become all paranoid and defensive (check out the GOP convention in Cleveland at the moment to confirm my assertion).

I’ve been fascinated for some time  by the intersection of cultures and what is gained and lost in the process. Although  I am not the first and I certainly will not be the last, I hope to add something personal to that conversation.  Drawing back in time, when even the most basic images of what is now Mexico City were ominously romanticized and barbarized,  they were oozing with biased  fodder for our imagination, fueling our fascination with the  pornography of violence:  the perverse fascination with human sacrifice and  the seemingly  never-ending ghastly spectacle of the Aztecs. To the conquerers this New Spain was in fact a New Jerusalem, ripe for conversion, once they came to heel that is.  To drive home the message of this new and terrifying place, the images were depicted through the prism of Classical antiquity , as the  temple image below suggests.


Jan Karel Donatus Van Beecq (1638-1722) – Illustrations de Histoire de la conquête du Mexique ou de la Nouvelle Espagne

I am now eager to explore this cross cultural disconnect in an upcoming series of work in which I play upon the theme of courtly entertainment, toys and baubles meant to amuse an aristocratic audience, all presented to the Holy Roman Emperor from the New World by none other than the reviled/beloved Malinche. And as my brain is driven fundamentally visually, sketching out vague concepts is the most pragmatic approach.


As is usual with my approach, whatever floats across my field of vision will often find itself incorporated into my work. The other day while visiting LACMA I encountered a beauty, a small ceramic depiction of the Maize Goddess. She was Mayan in origin, and although diminutive she possessed all of the grace of a Tanagra figurine.


I was happy to place this lovely lady into my composition.


Another inspirational happenstance,  though less elegant, was when my publicist Kristine posted an image of this drawing in its unfinished state and accidentally added a filter of rainbows and stars. In what would have been in any other circumstance appalling  to me , was in this instance, just what I needed. Of course fair Europa would feign affection, declaring undying affection to get at that gold lurking behind Tenochtitlan’s fiery skirt.



As I drew my mind wandered back to my visit to Mexico City, how as soon as we entered the city, I felt I belonged there. I was wistful reminiscing about the ancient art that seems to reach out from the very soil,defying the Church, defying the State, defying Time.  This detail is drawn from loose memory of a visit to the National Anthropological Museum.




I’m going to continue to draw upon these fascinating resources, albeit in my own ways. I feel no more compulsion to depict the divinities of Mexico as they were by indigenous peoples than I would feel obligated to depict Christ in a Byzantine manner. The following are a few beauties found at the Museo Templo Major, literally pulled from sacrificial ground. That just fascinates me.




I’m going to close with my handsome husband taken at the Casa Azul for no other reason than it was a really marvelous day and a really marvelous memory. 


Snooping on Frida (& Diego)

Our recent trip to Mexico City was meant to be a pilgrimage to the Old Gods and the New Goddesses, namely Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington. Sadly we were unable to see any of their  work, most on loan (Posado’s work was equally elusive , partly due to our lame Spanish I fear).  

But as my friend Rosa loves to tell me when a door slams shut a window opens. This trip if anything was a Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo extravaganza.

I am new to loving Frida, having been overexposed to her ominous brow  plastered on everything from coffee mugs to mouse pads. But since exploring the woman surrealists of Mexico I have fallen passionately in love with her. A trip to the Casa Azul was a necessity , tourists be damned. Fortunately Mexico City is not an early bird town and we had the place to ourselves in the early morn, a great luxury in such a metropolis.

 Italian Vogue has some exhibition going on concerning her clothing, again my Spanish is so lousy that I missed most of the point; but her clothing is fantastic .

Some of her costumes will be familiar to those who love her sell portraits.






As frothy and candy colored was her wardrobe, the corsets and crutches added a dark element. 


As fashion isn’t really a burning passion for me, I was more interested in the domestic life the two shared.

Although much of the Casa Azul is now devoted to gallery space one gets a sense of how well they lived, with taste not ostentation.  A Bloomsbury south of the border.

I was thrilled by the kitchen with its bright yellow furnishings, so inspirational.


Every artist has to peak into her studio, I was impressed that it wasn’t huge (Diego had a large studio of course) , but it was so well lit. Their favorite architect Juan O’Gorman, a great artist in his own right, added sensitive additions to her family home. 




Fun note, she stored excess paint in empty nail polish bottles, a glamorous touch.


Another interesting note is that her enviable easel was a gift from uber capitalist John D. Rockefeller; amusing that such ardent Marxists could be friendly enough to accept such a wonderful gift. For those interested it was made by Windsor and Newton, and it is fantastic; my own pitiful easel pales in comparison.

The gardens of Casa Azul are equally inspiring, generally I avoid the soil, but I’m tempted.


exterior view of the O’Gorman addition with charming dove-cots built from embedded clay jugs.



Rivera’s idea of a garden folly, a miniature pyramid; a perfect altar for Dia de los Mortos.


If I am going to work in the yard I must paint the walls blue as well because my husband looks so handsome against them.


That’s it for now, back to work, but until next time be well,