“K” is for Kukulcan

As the deadline for Alphabet Soup looms in the not so distant future I decided it was time to get busy; printmaking and mythology assignments be damned.

This addition to the Primer of New Spain is for Kukulcan, the Yucatec  term for quetzal-serpent (aka Quetzalcoatl).

Early accounts (pre-Aztec) of the priestly king describe a  divine sovereign so gentle of nature that when tempted by demons to engage in ritual human sacrifice he refuses. The Codex Chimpalopoca informs the reader :

“he would never agree [to human sacrifice] because he loved his vassals the Toltecs, and his sacrifice was always of snails, birds, and butterflies”.

Poor snails, birds and butterflies.

This enlightened monarch evidently introduced his people to the benefits of maize-hence the funny little crown.

He is also understood to be of great beauty, rendered the color of jade, beloved above gold-hence his pretty green body.

“K” is for Kukulcan
watercolor on paper
11by 18 inches

The funny little crown I mentioned is based upon a stucco portrait of the Great King Pacal of Palanque.

One of my older books describes this gorgeous bust as perhaps representing a priest of Kukulcan, the Quetzalcoatl of the Mayas. That has since been disproven but I thought the inspiration for my priestly king appropriate.

Stucco Portrait, King Pakal, Seventh Century A.D., Palenque

I love this portrait bust, I believe it rivals that OTHER bust of a certain lovely Egyptian queen. This portrait of Pakal captures the grace and beauty of Mayan art that just makes me loopy.

Another inspiration, another source of loopy-ness is the Pergamon Altar ; since boyhood the unabashedly sexy snake-legged giants have fascinated ( and titillated ) me.

They proved useful models for my winged- serpent- priestly lord, Bestower of Maize .

detail of Pergamon Altar

That is it for this evening, I have readings to finish, tackling the Orpheus and Eurydice tradition, next on to the Creation of Man.

Exciting stuff.

I’m almost finished of my first etching, it has been in three parts,  I will submit for later review. It is crude, but the process is fascinating.

Gotta love a good acid bath!

until next time,

take care,

LG

“M” is for Mictlantecuhtli and his lovely bride Mictecacihuatl

On to “M”,  I could have chosen Maize, the Maya or Monkeys; but instead  I chose some serious tongue twisting demons. That shouldn’t really be a surprise. I hope against hope that I managed to spell their names correctly on the Primer; would be rather awful otherwise.Given my dyslexia and increasingly failing eye sight I have my fears. 

“M” is for Mictlantecuhtl and Mictecacihuatl

Mictlantecuhtl is Lord of Mictlan, the seventh tier of the Underworld, a realm he shares with his bride Mictecacihuatl. He is usually depicted as a skeletal bundle, all bleached bone and red spots. As is true with all Lords of Xibalba, Mictlantecutl is a trickster but famously stupid and easily duped. I hoped to depict the arrogance and foolishness buffoons often possess, hence the priapic serpent between his legs. His bride’s disgust makes me smile.

Detail of a Randy Fool

The following is the image that inspired my little randy fool.

source

The double headed serpent motif may be familiar to visitors to the British Museum, it is one of my favorite objects.

For more information concerning the mosaic I suggest this link from the British Museum A History of the World in which they discuss 100 objects that altered the course of history; a wonderful program.

Well that is it for now.

Working on a large painting for which my weary eyes are pleased.

I begin a printmaking course on Tuesday, very excited indeed.

Until next time,

take care,

LG

“B” is for Bats

I am preparing to leave for a brief vacation to Ft. Lauderdale to visit dear friends; in between packing I am determined to post my latest entry for my Primer of New Spain: “B” is for Bats.

Yet another reason for my deep affection for the Mesoamerican culture is its appreciation for the  winged mammals. Revered and feared, bats pop up multiple times in the Popol vuh, indeed there is a temple El Zots , Place of the Bats, devoted to them- I recommend checking out the link, there is a tremendous video of swarming bat madness .

But my own affection for bats is more tenderhearted, I love their vulnerable beauty, they seem to me so fragile and endangered by man’s irrational fear of them. Perhaps this protectiveness stems from childhood , bullies who I knew all too well, one day switched their attention from me to a little brown bat that somehow had fallen from its roofline perch. Exposed to the sun and the taunts of these vicious boys, the bat screamed in defense, a little high pitched awful sound. I was with my mother and she shooed the ruffians with their sharpened popsicle sticks away from the little fellow ( perhaps the idiots thought the little bat to be a vampire).My mother was afraid of bats, but she gently nudged him under the shelter of shrubbery, hoping against odds that he would survive dogs, the sun and imbeciles.

So this little  blue bat is in memory of that little brown bat-and my mother.

“B” is for Bats
watercolor on paper
11 by 18 inches

The following is a depiction from Copan, I love his frank randy silliness, I thought Clive might get a chuckle out of him.

Well I will be off for a bit, back next Thursday.

I have a large painting started and thankfully the initial penciling in looks as pleasing to me as it did last evening when I shut the studio lights. It will await my return, that is something I will look forward to.

until that time, take care,

LG

“H” is for Hun Hunahpu, the Maize God

In my imaginings, Hun Hunahpu is the Zeus of the Mesoamerican Olympus. There doesn’t really seem to be one supreme deity, various cultures favored one god over another; but it is undeniable that Hun Hunahpu is a major player of the Popol Vuh.

Without Hun Huahpu , man would languish without nourishment; for it is with his sacrifice and redemption that he brought forth maize, teosinte to native people. Teosinte translates as teo, godly or sacred and cintli which translates as maize= godly corn.

It is this godly corn from which man is fashioned to serve the gods. Ancient teosinte was apparently tri-colored: golden, red and blue. Native people saw the similarities in their own lovely golden bodies, rippled with blue veins and able to release radiant red blood when cut.

This imagery is very rich to me, which is perhaps why I have fetishized Hun Hunahpu, a pagan Savior for New Spain.

“H” is for Hun Hunahpu
watercolor on paper
18 by 11 inches

Clive was (is?) working on a particularly fetching Gawain, I was enchanted by the fair knight’s porcelain skin; this motivated my own pale radiant god. I tried to capture the tri-color palette within the limitations of the Primer palette. I failed to keep it monochrome with only one color. The siren call of  my paint box gets me every time. I did want to capture the veining that  Mesoamericans read as blue, and the golden quality of my god is apparent .

What is also apparent  is the homoerotic nature of the painting. I may make another more chaste version, I may not. I know I wanted the Maize God to look physically and sexually striking  , he is after all a fertility god! The “subtly” placed corn cob may be a bit excessive, but I couldn’t resist the visual pun.

I appreciate the indulgence.

I am finishing up a painting in oil, another bit of male pulchritude, I will present him next week, the gods willing.

Until that time,

take care,

LG

“G”is for Gold

It isn’t an original thought to believe that New Spain was built upon a foundation of stolen gold; the Spanish lust for what the Aztecs called teocuitlatl is infamous. What is perhaps less known is the Aztec belief that gold was the excrement of the gods; although of value, gold paled next to the luster of jade and the sparkle of the quetzal feather. That said, what was wrought by the Aztecs was of such wonder that the great Albrecht Dürer (the son of a goldsmith) exclaimed upon seeing the golden booty:

“Also I saw the things which were brought to the King from the New Golden Land: a sun entirely of gold, a whole fathom broad; likewise, a golden moon, entirely of silver, just as big ;likewise, sundry curiosities from their weapons, armor, and missiles; very odd clothing, bedding, and all sorts of strange articles for human use, all of which is fairer to see than marvels. These things were all so precious that they were valued at a hundred thousand guilders. But I have never seen in all my days that which so rejoiced my heart, as these things. For I saw among them amazing artistic objects, and I marveled over the subtle ingenuity of the men in these distant lands. Indeed I cannot say enough about the things which were there before me.” (source:Mary Ellen Miller’s The Art of Mesoamerica). 

Alas these “artistic objects” that so thoroughly enchanted Dürer were melted down for the crass value of their base metal.

With that in mind I present “G” is for Gold; the acclaimed metalwork rendered in my own particular  Babylonian Baroque style.

“G” is for Gold
18 by 11 inches
watercolor on paper

My figure of the enthroned Motecuhzoma II was based upon a sketch from a recent life drawing session. The young model was particularly louche , this suggestive pose seemed appropriate for the last Emperor of Tenochtitlan. But upon completion I realized with the addition of an obviously camp head-dress the emperor now had a closer affinity to  Henry Cyril Paget, the 5th Marquess of Anglesey (the notorious “Dancing Marquess”) than a noble King.

Oh well.

The Dancing Marquess – Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquess of Anglesey

I am now back home from a far too brief holiday, busily catching up, posts to follow.

Until that time,

take care,

LG

“X” is for Xquic

Progressing forward on the Primer of New Spain.

As I mentioned last time I will be jumping about the alphabet. As I began with “A”, “X” seemed the logical choice. I chose Xquic, the princess of Xibalba. For those who have followed this narrative , and not been daunted by the tongue twisting names, you will remember she is the heroine of the Popol Vuh narrative. Having miraculously given birth  to the Hero Twins, I present her enthroned upon an “X” chair.

“X” is for Xquic
2012
watercolor on paper
16 by 20 inches

The following is a detail (as the image is rather small) of Xquic and her sons the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. As I progress in this series I continue to paint the Twins blue. There isn’t  a tradition for this, I just like the effect, an homage to Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

detail of Xquic and the Hero Twins

This may be the last post for a bit, trying to tie up loose ends as we are leaving for a brief Independence Day holiday. We are going to Portland Oregon, it seems such a pretty and progressive place; far different temperament and climate from oppressive San Diego. We are both excited to get out of Dodge.

Until next time,

take care,

LG

“A” is for Axis Mundi

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.

“A” is for Axis Mundi
June 22nd 2012
watercolor on paper
9 by 16 inches

And this is the tree as we know it.

Axis Mundi @ Balboa Park, San Diego

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.

Aunt Lydia @ the Axis Mundi

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.

Well until next time,

take care

LG