Update from the Underworld

It has been a bit since I last posted, it isn’t that I haven’t been painting, but I have been hesitant to post the progress.

Insecurity perhaps.

I had started a new painting in anticipation of a show in LA, a show I have participated in before devoted to work on paper. Most of my recent work aside from the maquettes have been oil on canvas. The following image is something I am considering submitting. I believe I am close to finished, perhaps some enhancements here and there, but for now, finished.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins has repeatedly suggested to consider all work as a basis for another, scraps of random sketches proving a rich resource for more developed work. I believe him, most particularly when I see his own admirable sketches. Alas, my own scribbles are  often merely that, scribbles. But some do prove inspirational. The following painting was inspired by a very random “scribble-note” taken in a class devoted to Mesoamerican art and culture. That class has been the original impetus for this latest body of work devoted to the Popol huh;the admittedly  clumsy scribble  acting as a  guide for several paintings, this one in particular. 

Memories from Teotihuacan
detail from Memories of Teotihuacan

In this image we have the Hero Twins redeeming the honor of their vanquished father the Maize God. The Lord of the Underworld taunts their valiant effort, but he will indeed suffer the consequence of his hubris. The mother of the Hero twins Xquic looks on.

detail of slain Maize God

As noted this is a detail of Hun Hunahpu, the slain Maize God. In actuality the sacrificial gash would have been horizontal for those nerdy enough to care upon such Meso-minutia.

The following is the sketch that I was speaking about.

I happily spent yesterday in LA, I know I have been trapped in the boondocks a bit too long when LA seems the epicenter of urban sophistication. Such snarkiness aside, LACMA is one of my favorite museums and a really marvelous show devoted to women surrealist living in Mexico is soon to close, for more info, follow this In Wonderland link. It was a truly spectacular show, Leonora Carrington is my new idol, I knew her work essentially from one painting at the Met; having experienced so many of her paintings I am a convert to her cult.

All praise Leonora!

Another show I was eager to catch was Children of the Plumed Serpent, the Legacy of Quetzalcoatl. It was as I had hoped spectacular. It was very rich in luxury goods traded amongst different Mesoamerican people, polychromed pottery, dazzling gold work, mind boggling micro mosaics. Stunning. This funny little fellow, a censer is crafted to resemble a scribe, I figured  visitors to this site would be tickled by his pen and little shell holding pigment. He is in remarkable shape, 30 or so inches,  a handsome little bugger.

Effigy Censer, Maya, AD 1200-1500

The following is a fragment of a censer, he is so grave and  impressive.  I was very drawn to him, he will feature somewhere , somehow in a painting or drawing .

Censer Fragment, Mayan, AD 1200-1500

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in my old hometown, I am happy to be back in the studio. My little pug-dog Rose was quite peeved with my audacity-how dare I leave her in the care of her nanny? all day!  It has taken most of the day for her to “speak ” to me again, I’ve promised her I will lock myself in the studio, a slave to painting and to pugs.

Take care and have a marvelous weekend,


Composition Thus Far

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.

detail of Hun Hunahpu, the Maize God

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.

Until next time,

take care,


The Sacred Heart of Hun Hunahpu

In my ongoing appreciation of the Popol huh Creation myth, I am increasingly aware of the similarities between the imagery of the Roman Catholic faith and that of the indigenous people of Mexico. It is of little surprise that conversion to the new faith met surprisingly little resistance- bloodbaths aside of course. In many ways it was picking up one mantle for another. Such is the case with this recent watercolor (finished last evening).

The Sacred Heart of Hun Hunahpu



Briefly, according to the Popol huh, Hun Hunahpu,  the Maize God and his brother Vucub Hunahpu descend to the Underworld. There faced with the duplicitous Lords of Xibalba pitifully fail challenge after challenge. The price for there failure is sacrifice, ritually depicted here as a horizontal gash to the chest with the still living heart removed. Hun faces further humiliation in having his head removed and placed in a fruit laden tree. This tree with its ghoulish bauble attracts the attention of Xquic a goddess of the Underworld. Approaching the head, Hun spits into her hand impregnating her. The result of this union being the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xblanque ( depicted in an earlier post). The Hero Twins will go on to avenge their father’s sacrifice.

One can easily see similarities between the two great religious traditions, Virgin births, Sacrificial Saviors, Sacred Hearts, even severed heads reminiscent of John , reminding one of  the Messiah’s arrival.

Difficult for this floundering Catholic to not be drawn to the material.

detail of Hun Hunahpu

This is an image of the Maize God in the throes of defeat AND impregnating the Xibalba princess Xquic. Delacroix and Blake being obvious influences.

detail of the Lord of Xibalba and the Princess Xquic

 In this detail I wanted to illustrate the life sustaining attributes of sacrifice, in this case the chest cavity opened and the still living heart seized upon by the greedy Underworld Lord. The blood of the young virile Maize God acting as a cosmic Viagra for the craven demon-god. And yes I am well aware that my depiction is juvenile and  bit titillating,  I promise I WILL mature, but later. His daughter clutches the Heroic Heirs close to her breast, out of the reach of her sinister father. She will soon enough be banished, but that is another tale…

Until that time,

take care,

Boondocks Babylon