I am working on a series of pieces for an upcoming group show devoted to the maligned women of history , folk tale and myth . The show is called “Bad Girls”. There are plenty of so called Bad Girls to choose from and I’ve selected a few that have resonated over the years : Salome , Mary Magdalene, the three crones from “Macbeth”.
My studio progress which had been going well has been interrupted a bit ( even this post , ordinarily made from the comfort of my studio , is now made from my IPhone at my breakfast table .
My little dog Rose is very sick . We nearly lost her over the weekend and her recovery is arduous and fraught with worry . My time and my emotions are occupied with her recovery .
That said , I did manage to bring all the pups to the studio yesterday and put in a few hours . Rose’s whimpering abating , the anti anxiety meds kicking in allowing me some time to focus.
What I focused upon was the Mesoamerican moon goddess Coyolxauhqui, link below :
According to the legend this unfortunate goddess for reasons complicated by patriarchy and misogyny, is mutilated beyond recognition. Forever memorialized in the monumental disc bearing her image found now at the Templo Mayor museum in Mexico City . She is a powerful figure.
I worked rather feverishly yesterday as I knew my time was limited before Rosie became restless again needing my attention and the result thus far , is the corpus of the goddess found above . I myself was struck by the pathos of the being .
As usual with my dollmaking I hadn’t filtered my emotions for mechanics; the figure emerged on her own . And after I held her broken body and posted her image online , only then , over dinner with my husband ( the psychotherapist) did I realize that my Coyolxauhqui was in fact Rosie.
This should have been obvious , Rose has an amputated rear right leg and now a near lame right arm- she is essentially an invalid . That the doll is nearly life sized to my sweet pug is also an unconscious similarity.
I’m of course completely absorbed with Rose’s needs , we both are . David , a medical doctor’s son is particularly adept in assessing in a calm cool manner; but he has his own work , patients of the human sort wrestling with their own traumas .
As the artist with a more flexible schedule, nursing is for the most part, my duty . I’m so happy she is alive I am grateful to have this second chance . But it’s hard , she cannot eliminate on her own , fights me ferociously over her bitter pills and the whimpering, not consistent, but when she does whimper , it breaks my heart in half . Believing myself to be impotent , useless .
This is Rosie yesterday , a better day ( after a fraught night ) , shopping for new bedding and nursing paraphernalia. She loved the attention , her tail wagging with enthusiasm.
Today, after her follow up at the hospital ( it’s predicted to be a lengthy recovery , six months or so of this schedule), I plan to head to the studio and meet my other obligations to the show , my work and to myself .
The following images are of my progress thus far: Wish me luck.
This is one of two proposals I recently submitted for a solo show… boney fingers crossed. The first, The Thinking Reed is pretty much ready to hang; this one resides mostly within my head and deals primarily with perception and the problems that arise from appropriation and misappropriation.
Tenochtitlan Toyland: Playthings from New Spain
My proposal for “Tenochtitlan Toyland: Playthings from New Spain” is a theatrical concept room, an installation piece that essentially represents a nursery from hell. My concept which employs painted and constructed assemblages, cardboard and papier-mâché figures, marionettes and paintings on paper also incorporate an interactive element in which to engage the gallery viewer.
The nursery in question is that of the Infanta Margaret decorated with imagined booty from New Spain. By utilizing commonly found construction materials, I wish to poke fun at consumerism and the incessant quest for novelty. To achieve this end I plan to make a plywood Selfie Booth, fashion a series of cardboard jumping wall puppets , even introduce a live performer encased in a walking puppet of my making. There is also a faux didactic element to this installation; I’ve painted a series of watercolor illustrations for an alphabet primer of New Spain that completely misses the mark in comprehending these vanquished people. From encouraging the use of hashtags for my proposed Selfie-booth, to passing out crayons in which to color pastiches of Baroque wall hangings, I wish to engage the viewer, reflect the past and hold up a mirror to the foibles and vanities of our current society.
My work is always narrative based and whether expressed through two dimensional or three dimensional works, I seek to tell universal stories and explore universal truths. With this installation I wish to employ every weapon in the arsenal. Paintings, sculpture and interactive engagement are part of my concept; I wish to create a sense of Gesamtkunstwerk, but instead of a Wagnerian Valhalla, I instead wish to create a dark and funny depiction of our seemingly unquenchable thirst for power and privilege.
Much of this work is still in the conceptual stage, so I have provided preparatory drawings to illustrate my intentions. I have also, when available, enclosed images of completed elements such as marionettes, paper dolls and pages from the aforementioned Primer of New Spain. I have also enclosed an itemized page providing details concerning my concepts and anticipated materials for the elements which make up the whole of Tenochtitlan Toyland; they are numbered to correspond with the images. Concerning which gallery I would prefer I have submitted a scaled rendering of the show situated in the W Gallery; of course that decision is up to the gallery. Given that much of the work is site specific I would appreciate, if I were fortunate enough to be selected, a later date in 2017 for the opening. Given my themes of consumerism and toys, a slot close to Christmas would be devilishly delightful!
An Itemized List Concerning Tenochtitlan Toyland: Playthings from New Spain
1- “The Rape of Tenochtitlan”, 2016, colored pencil on paper, 18 by 24”.
The initial impetus behind this concept.
2- Pages from my alphabetic primer The Primer of New Spain ; letters A, B, C and D shown. The entire alphabet will represented .
Materials: watercolor on paper.
3- My marionettes of the Hero Twins. These marionettes are part of a body of work that includes other puppets and doll derived from the Popol vuh, that will be incorporated into the concept as a whole.
Materials: Sculpey modeling medium, armature, paint.
4-Part of a collection of paper dolls that I have been working on over the last few years. Some of the dolls are nearly life-sized, some conventionally sized.
Materials: watercolor, graphite, on paper, brads.
5- The Coatlicue Selfie Booth , given that Aztec goddess Coatlicue (and her war god son Huitzilipochtli) is quite a fearsome presence, she is an amusing choice for a selfie cutout . I would actively encourage the hashtag #teotoyland while visitors snap away; both ridiculing social media and exploiting it.
Anticipated materials: self supporting painted plywood cutout.
6- My proposal includes four “jumping jacks”, childish amusements of the Victorians, the difference being, as is the case with this depiction of the rain god Tlaloc,my offerings would be considered inappropriate for the nursery by most sane people. I imagine including three other Aztec gods including the aforementioned war-god Huitzilipochtli. Each will be placed behind a baroque inspired “tapestry”, that with crayons provided near by, I would hope gallery visitors would color in. I imagine an interactive experience, as with the selfie booth.
Anticipated materials: paint, cardboard, string, brads; tapestries, enlarged renderings with crayons provided.
7-The Templo Major, the heart of Tenochtitlan, home to the primary altars of Tlaloc and Huitzilipochtli , scene of countless human sacrifices and terrible battles , could not be a more inappropriate inspiration for a dollhouse; yet I propose just that concept . The installation would include rag dolls of gods, priests and their unfortunate victims. I anticipate quite a few hearts.
Anticipated materials: Painted wood and or papier-mâché construction, lightbulbs, mixed media as yet undetermined.
8- One of the aforementioned rag dolls, in this case, Huitziliopochtli.
Materials: rags, thread, paint.
9- A Meso-american television complete with vignettes from the creation myth , the Popol vuh. It would include the aforementioned marionettes.
Anticipated materials: painted wood and or papier-mâché , lightbulb , mixed media elements as of yet undetermined.
10-A prototype of #9, the Meso-american television.
Materials: painted wood, mixed media.
11- Mictlantecuhtli (Lord of Xibalba) parade marionette. A walking interactive puppet depicting the major god of the underworld . Once again introducing an absurd interactive element into the nursery concept. I hope the performer to be most fetching.
Anticipated materials: chicken wire armature, papier-mache, dowels, string, wire, paint.
12- Schematic of my proposal within the Wubdemann Gallery; drawn 1/4” scale.
Well, that’s it. I’m not sure which worries me more, being rejected or actually having this proposal accepted and going mad putting it all together! Wish me well please.
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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.
Last evening I completed a small painting, I like to think of it as an icon, an icon to a dreadful god. Once again, the great war god of Tenochtitlan has captured my imagination, this time expressed in oil.
The Great War God, Huitzilopochtli
oil on canvas
8 by 12 “
I had previously made a series of relief prints depicting the god, link HERE.
The Great War God Huitzilopochtli
relief print on paper
9 by 12″
This isn’t the most fearsome depiction of a war god , Ares seems far more terrible (and cowardly) in the Iliad. Somehow my war god translated into something gentle and bumbling, I’m thinking that is a good thing.
As the year winds down I am trying to complete a few last paintings.
This painting The Virgin Birth of Huitzilopochtli I finished last evening. A few little tweaks here and there, but it is complete…for now. This has been an aesthetic experiment and it has been a difficult birth (cheap pun, forgive me).
After departing Tenochtitlan I have been inspired by the geometric forms of Aztec visual expression. How in spite of their often fearsome appearance,I sense the humanity, the complexities of this culture. Even this narrative, the virgin birth of their most revered god, the fire/war god Huitzilopochtli (Tlaloc, the rain god a close second), which has obvious similarities to the Christian salvation narrative is imbued with both violence and tenderness.
The great goddess Coatlicue , She of the Skirt of Serpents, is miraculously with child, this new violent god who will bring the people wealth through tribute . His siblings the moon goddess Coyolxauhqui and her fellow siblings the Centzonhuitznahuah are full of rage at the dishonor such a claim makes. A virgin birth, through a stray feather is as absurd as a teenage Hebrew girl chatting it up with the Angel of Yahwah. They set upon their wayward mother ready to tear her to pieces; miraculously Huitzilopochtli is born fully armed and prepared to smite the usurpers. The famous (and spectacular) Coatlicue Stone a striking indigenous illustration of the carnage.
The following is my own interpretation , imbuing the narrative with traditional nativity tenderness, let the blood-letting hold for the moment.
The Virgin Birth of Huitzilopochtli
oil on canvas
24 by 36 inches
I have placed the lunar goddess Coyolxauhqui in the upper right corner, her siblings the vengeful Centzonhuitznahuah sitting in judgement on the left; as a hint of hope the Plumed Serpent Quetzalcoatl splashes about awaiting his own return. For perspective , I have enclosed some traditional examples of this great pantheon:
Coatlicue-National Museum of Anthropology
Huitzilopochtli-not sure of source other than wikipedia.
I have more work ahead , but I was eager to finish this painting before my own celebration of that OTHER virgin birth.
When visiting Mexico City we were determined to find a massive fountain Diego Rivera had designed for Chapultepec Park. The mosaic fountain depicted, appropriately for the city’s water-works, the rain god Tlaloc. Finding this fountain proved to be difficult, we encountered blank stares when we discussed what we thought would be a well-loved emblem of civic pride.
Sadly this great work seems to have been largely forgotten. Time has moved on and much of the elaborate fountain schemes are dry and neglected. Rivera’s work has been restored (click here for info concerning its renovation ) but there is a sense of desolation to the place. That and it was fast approaching dusk, we were lost as hell, in a strange city, in a VAST park without a clue as to how to get back to the b&b-thank the old gods for Google map apps.
But we did return and now safe and sound I have crafted a relief print of the great god, he should be our deity in sun parched Southern California. Happily I have found a small press available for use at the local Art & Craft Museum on Wilshire Blvd.
artist’s proof, relief print
I hadn’t realized it at the time but I was influenced by Rivera’s playful interpretation of this most fierce god; a god so relentless for tribute he demanded the blood of tearful toddlers.
Rivera’s take on the god, magnificent image NOT my own but that of National Geographic from the article above.
My own, far lamer images follow:
Intricate aquatic themed mosaic work covers almost every surface.
Difficult to capture from the angle, but a detail of his face.
The back of his head features a different face.
This trip established for me a profound respect for Diego Rivera and his work, I hadn’t much of an opinion before, but the breadth of his work astounds me.
Must get cracking’, I have three canvases in various states of completion.
Built upon the bones of the Templo Mayor the Metropolitan Cathedral sprawls out in baroque splendor. It is a wondrous complex of buildings, unmistakably the Church of Rome, yet a distinct synthesis of western aesthetic values and the indigenous spirit. This magnificent structure is adjacent to what remains of the great Aztec temple.
The Templo Mayor complex is a strange sight, a raw brutal testament to what was, it remains defiant against these new usurping gods.
I was thrilled by it all, the old and the new gods.
Art by Roberto Cueva Del Rio
I’m not going to be able to identify all that I post, I simply could not keep up with the wealth that was offered- you must go and experience the richness for yourself.
The museum sits in the shadow of the cathedral, please note this is the least magnificent aspect of the facade, just its side profile. Stunning and exhilerating architecture, clearly formally orchestrated yet organic.
Exterior remains popping up amidst Colonial order.
Skull rack- too pooped to look up the proper name-sorry for that.
The interior collection follows:
Eagle Offering Vessel-Cuauhxicalli
the fearsome Xipe Totec
a delightf ul Bat God, over life size, as is the Xipe above.
The following are Temple figures found in the ruins, a little under life size. I find them particularly intriguing, on par with Archaic Greek sculpture.
If the above figures were monumental, this crumbling fellow was small and portable yet still conveying power. The following few are all roughly fist sized.
I love this guy.
He was a little over a foot if I remember correctly.
If one sought rain, the Templo Mayor offered a plethora of Tlaloc and Chac idols.
As I began with a black Old God, I will conclude with a New God, also black, also beautiful.
This Christ greets you as you enter the Metropolitan Cathedral. His painful wounds gush with crimson brocade ribbons. It is a wonderful spectacle. I love the fan at his waist.