Odd Owls

Last week I finished off with an abstracted owl taken almost line for line from original source material. This week I wanted to finish off the trio with original designs. I’m not altogether convinced they work-any of them. I may very well end up creating naturalistic owls, they are fantastic enough, peculiar little creatures. but I am happy I played about with the design. I favor the crimson and gold owl, my nod to the Spanish Baroque.

In addition to my funny little owls which may all be for naught, I have been crafting one of the main characters, the Maize God. He should be ready by tomorrow. I rather like him but when the photo popped up on I-photo he looked awkward, I’m going to need to do further revision. But for now my eyes are tired and my dogs restless, eager for me to retire.

Until next time,


A Green ( and Orange) Owl

Given that Saint Patrick’s feast day is around the corner I thought I would focus on a green owl.

The Popol huh mentions three owls (including one identified as Skull Owl )acting as assistants to the nefarious Death Gods of Xibalba.

It should also be noted that owls help lead the quite pregnant Princess Xquic (previous post) out of the Underworld and into the land of the living.

Owls occupy a complicated place in Mesoamerican culture,one of fear and respect; seen as messengers between the spirit world and that of man. Because they occupied the dark and  dank caves they  were also associated with death, most particularly the Death Gods of Xibalba.

A green owl is not such a peculiar choice, the aforementioned Illustrated Dictionary informs that “Green owls commonly occur in the art of Teotihuacan…” (128).

Hence my desire to present a very green and orange (only seems fair) owl for one of my favorite feast days.

The source material for this owl is from the Codex Borgia (found in the same Dictionary, pg. 129). I tried to be as true as possible to the original. A bit challenging as the original  is extremely graphic;but I think he works nicely , a funny little fellow.

Just a few more poses, he is a flexible little bird…

In closing just a frankly very appealing owl, I couldn’t resist.

Wishing a very happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

I most likely will not post until next week-family time.

Take care,

Boondocks Babylon

The Most Blessed Virgin Xquic

Roman Catholics aren’t the only folks with virgin births of Messianic proportions, in the Popol vuh a young princess from the Underworld (Xibalba) gives birth to not one Messiah but two!

In this tale as I discussed before in earlier posts ,the young  princess, Xquic encounters the freshly sacrificed head of the apparently still quite virile Maize God, Hun Hunahpu. His head, now perched upon the branches of a calabash tree greets our fair maiden quite crudely. The Maize God spits into Xquic’s hand resulting in the miraculous birth of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque (earlier post).

Today’s maquette is of this Virgin Mother.

This was a trickier maquette in that I wanted her clothed, not nude as I have been working with. I am still working out  having Classical drapery flow when fastened by brads, clumsy, but I’m working on it.

One of my goals was to depict the Virgin Mother not only draped but with a vision of her miraculous twins. With a small brad pivoting to reveal her treasures I was able to accomplish my goal.

Not unlike an early anatomical mannikin.

My resource for costume was Professor Manuel Aguilar-Moreno’s indispensable Handbook to Life in the Aztec World. The following illustration taken from that book (365) is of an Aztec noblewoman. Aguilar-Moreno, quoting Fray Bernadino de Sahagún (responsible for the Florentine Codex) informs us that Aztec women used an herbal dye that “…produced a purple shining in the hair.” (368).

Hence the purple coif.

Aztec noblewoman

Well that is it for this evening , another long day, must start afresh tomorrow.

Until next time,

take care,

Boondocks Babylon

Heart of Sky, Winged Serpent of Heaven

The Feathered Serpent, Quetzalcoatl is a recurring figure in Mesoamerica going back to the Olmecs. Essentially this deity is a hybrid of the rattlesnake and the lavishly beautiful quetzal bird. Depictions of Quetzalcoatl are found pre-Aztec at Teothihuacan  as a snake covered in feathers; as he is depicted with images of rain (which in of itself is interesting as rain is frequently depicted as many little micro-phalluses, referencing fertility) it is believed to be regarded as a rain spirit.

The following is my  first stab at depicting  Quetzalcoatl , I will most likely return to him from  time to time as I have multiple ideas as to how best  imagine him.

I added articulated flames, far more Western an approach, but I couldn’t resist. The project is from a Western perspective after all.

Once again the image of the heart is prominent , I had planned on an outer cover, which I created, but upon construction I preferred the feathered-serpent exposed.

With the cover,

What I found so surprising with this figure and some of the imagery was the very apparent cholo influence. My last studio being downtown LA, right down the street from a very cool low rider garage, I saw plenty of very interesting graphics. I hadn’t realized how much I have become influenced by that genre. Most notable with the flames.

I must confess I am quite exhausted, annoying Daylight Savings Time always causes me to be a bit loopy for a few days, even the pugs are loopy.

Until next time,

take care,

Boondocks Babylon

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

Birthday Demon

As I mentioned earlier this is my beloved’s birthday, so I thought it fitting to present this heart- bearing Underworld God as an offering. Much of the Popol huh takes place in the Underworld-Xibalba, Place of Fright. 

Of course I just love that, always happier designing demons than heroes.

The following fellow is inspired by a Tzitzimitl demon  taken from the 16th century Codex Magliabechiano *. And although the Tzitzimitl are technically Star Demons, I couldn’t resist playing with the image. According to the Illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya the Lords of Xibalba are a silly lot; for although they are “…ruthless and clever” they are frequently and easily duped. I wanted to capture that sense of arrogance and foolish pride.


paper maquette


The following is the source taken from the aforementioned Illustrated Dictionary (177)

What I particularly enjoyed about this source material was the garland of severed hands- so perversely  gruesome and the phallic snake between his legs-so perversely funny.

That seems, from my study of Mesoamerican art and culture to be a typical trait. Even the little skulls beneath the figure are amusing, not so very funny for those sacrificed but for modern observers there is a charm and wit about them. My question continues to be how much of the humor was intentional? I haven’t found an answer no matter how many exhibitions and conferences I have attended, but I want to explore that question.

For my own Birthday Demon I gave him a garish showgirl headdress replete with mutilated hands and pulsating veins, bits of creepy this and that complete the ensemble. I of course could not resist the puerile temptations of depicting the  serpentine priapic state. With my new handy-dandy micro-fasteners ( in near perfect colors) I was able to create a bit of naught peek-a-boo.

Happy Birthday David!

In the demon’s clawed hand he offers a freshly culled heart as a birthday greeting to my Sweetpea, so perfectly Aztec ( I’m sure he will be thrilled).

Well that is it for today, Happy Birthday Bubbe.

Until next time, take care,

Boondocks Babylon

* Miller,Mary,and Karl Taube.”Tzitzimitl.”An illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya.Paperback ed. 1997.Print.

Back to the Hermitage

This week is my husband’s birthday, I say week as he enjoys a weeklong celebration of this blessed day ( March 6th) ; I for one would rather forget my own birthday.

That said, David had taken off early last week in order to prepare for celebrations. It was a busy weekend with little opportunity to work in the studio. We certainly didn’t sit about, we painted his mother’s sitting room and the kitchen, all very fresh and happy- a pretty celery green. Gardening and luncheon with maiden auntie and mater, a little museum visit on kimono and obi designs of the 1960’s ,  cooking and dining and drinking; the usual time consuming “life” stuff. How do  productive folks balance it all? Planting artichoke seedlings is one thing, but painting, now that is another story.

That being the case the following is work from last week. I am working at the suggestion of my friend Clive Hicks-Jenkins on incorporating maquettes into my studio practice. Maquettes being little puppet like figures articulated by paper fasteners ( I have since found incredibly teeny little fasteners at Michaels- a shop I cannot tolerate but often has just the perfect oddball device). Clive provided instructions in making a maquette which have been incredibly valuable. I am probably more OCD than Clive would like, but as I gain confidence I’m sure I will loosen up.

My current interest is the Creation Myth of the Mesoamericans, the Popol vuh. In time I will give more details about the mythic cycle, it is very exciting stuff and provides me with relatively unexplored subject matter- at least by Westerners. What I intend to explore is the significance of the story as seen from an outsider perspective. Not very different from chinoiserie in 17th and 18th century Europe. In fact a major influence is once again Poussin and his heroic figures.The following articulated figure is of Xbalanque,  one of a pair of Hero Twins, a staple in Mesoamerican visual culture. It is safe to say they are not usually depicted as I have chosen to depict them.

As I mentioned the figure was inspired by Poussin, in this instance The Magnanimity of Scipio, this being a very poor detail taken from my phone. In fact all of the images seem pretty paltry, I will need to work on adjusting the settings.

Another image of the Xbalanque maquette.

As I mentioned I have been interested in the Popol huh for some time, the following is a detail of a larger oil that I am working on still, this image being of the Hero Twins.

I frankly haven’t a clue as to why this is such a large image, but so it is. I will close with this cinematic vision, it is close to 9 am and i must get to work cutting and snipping and making use of my dandy little fasteners. 

Until next time,


Settling In And Beginning Anew

This is my first post for my new blog Boondocks Babylon. As readers of Babylon Baroque are aware of I have moved from Los Angeles to a backwater outpost of San Diego , El Cajon ( I had thought San Diego provincial enough, I hadn’t a clue how cowboy East County was).  El Cajon I believe translates to mean the box or something like that. Aptly named as one can certainly feel boxed in. As is true of much of our fine country many folks are unhappy and broke, it appears El Cajon is the epicenter of angry white folks, quite annoyed with lots of brown people sucking the life out of our nation-or so goes the rhetoric. Obviously this was not the sort of environment that was familiar when we lived in the westside of LA, I used to bitch and moan about the vapid conversations, the banal consumption of luxury goods and of course the well known shallowness.

Goodness I miss all that. Instead of lovely boys and girls flashing ridiculously perfect smiles I encounter the most dreary angry folks around, greying, becoming increasingly doughy and all around pissed off ; they have turned Crunch gym ( YES there is a Crunch in El Cajon, who would have imagined!) into a red-necked biker bar. It is all terribly dis-spiriting at times. 

We wouldn’t have made such a drastic move  if it wasn’t necessary, my mother-in-law is increasingly in need of attention, financially and emotionally, after experimenting with other options this has turned out to be the most viable solution. The husband still has his practice in Beverly Hills and he schlepps “home” to our little gated community on the weekend, a cul -de- sac with pretensions of Orange county grandeur. So that is the back story, the upside is I have been given tremendous liberty to paint, after 20 years of servile commissioned work for interior decorators, I am tickled to finally have this opportunity. As much as I may gripe about my situation, when I am in the Little Hermitage ( my studio and the name of my first house which is another story), with hummingbirds visiting my garden and snoring pugs at my feet it is quite heavenly. That is when I must feel gratitude and believe I am in the right place at the right time.

I am increasingly close to the half century mark, as an artist I have very little to show for it. As I mentioned I have worked for designers who have essentially used my abilities to suit their needs and their “vision”, I was quite literally a tool- a paintbrush with arms and legs. It wasn’t at all a pleasant experience, one that has left me a bit resentful  but more specifically sad that I have wasted so much time. I am trying to race against time and create a body of work that I can feel proud about, one that reflects my interests and exploits my limited skills. I am self taught, still learning, often struggling.

This new blog will be my attempt to record this period, my Second Half. Here in suburbia, most frequently isolated save for pups and the mother-in-law, trying to put in studio time and make something of myself.

Please wish me luck.

Until next time,

Boondocks Babylon

Above mentioned pugs, mid snore, Viola on left, Rose on right.