One of the things that has kept me so busy this past semester is the course on art history that I decided to take.
Yes, I added voluntarily a huge workload to my already full schedule. But, you know what? I love it. Making the time to go at night to the course has to be one of the best decisions I have made the whole year.
I truly love reading and learning on history. And learning on how art was affected by the events occurring, well that is a treat.
I have learned so much, from the basic differences between scientific and social research; to a reminder on Islamic culture and art. And specially on Mexican art.
The professor that taught us on Mexican art (both pre-hispanic and Baroque) mentioned many times how it was amazing that foreigners have come to Mexico, marvelled themselves at the wonders they saw in here, studied them; and very few Mexicans appreciate all that we have.
Very few of us (myself included) appreciate the immensity of the knowledge and cultures that developed in our land.
Based on that premise, I am thankful to this professor for showing me how to look with different eyes into the art of my country. I knew (because they taught me in primary school) That the Mayans and the Nahuas were great engineers, had a complex social system, had a perception of the world that when one actually analyses it has a lot to do with Hindu and Buddhist cultures and a little bit of Quantum Physics (or the small bit we are able to understand). But i had never bothered to see their art, (sculptures, paintings, constructions) considering all these elements.
Usually what I saw were just monoliths that had monstrous faces carved on them. Without realising that they were full of symbols, and of elements that explained the way my ancestors viewed the Universe.
The best example of this that I can think of is the enormous sculpture of the Coatlicue goddess, found in 1790 in proximity to Mexico City’s Cathedral.
I remember visiting this particular statue at the National Museum of Anthropology when I was little. And to be completely sincere, I was frightened by it. I did not understand completely what was it supposed to be. Why was a goddess so scary-looking? Why was a god that was supposed to be a creator (according to my then first grade teacher) so awful looking?
And now -at least 20 years later- I understand the beauty behind it. Yes, it is not easy to look at. It is not Michelangelo’s David, or Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. But she is beautiful.
From the two snakes that form the cephalic form at the top, to the necklace of hands and hearts with a skull pendant. To the eagles on her shoulders, to her skirt made out of intertwined snakes representing her femininity aunt he claws at her feet; she is a true work of art.
One must be able to appreciate the craftsmanship required to create her. And at the same time, observe that every bit of her has a reason to be there. She doesn’t have a necklace with human heart covering her breasts just because it was a fashion statement at the time she was created, her skirt is not like that just because it was aesthetically pleasing. Every bit of her is full of symbols.
She represents the duality of the Universe. Her head is made of two serpent heads, showing in the middle a bi-tounge. Her necklace represents sacrifice, from which the Universe can draw blood to regenerate itself, and keep the energy moving. (Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed… sound familiar?) She has breasts like those of an old lady that has fed many kids. She is a mother. But at the same time, she has claws at her feet, that can actually help her tear away the skin from those sacrificed to her. She is both a creator and a destroyer. There can be no life without the absence of it (death), and viceversa.
She is both a woman, which is represented on the skirt of serpents, and at the same time she has a masculinity. Represented on the member we can see alongside her feet. She has the symbol for Venus on her skirt, on the intertwining of the snakes.
She represents the balance needed for the Universe to continue moving and living. She is a true force on the communal psyche of the Aztecs. She amalgamates both the fears and the hopes of human kind. She is pure energy.
And aren’t we constantly trying to explain how the Universe works? Call it Physics, Quantum mechanics or New Age Philosophy… Maybe sometimes all we need is to look into out own cultural heritage, to find inspiration to solve the mysteries that haunt us.
Lots of Love
- “Coatlicue. Posclásico Tardío (1250-1521 D.C.).” Museo Nacional De Antropología. MNA, 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
- Solares, Blanca. “La Cara Femenina De Dios. Aproximaciones Al Fondo Matricial Mesoamericano.” Lenguajes Del Símbolo. Investigaciones De Hermenéutica Simbólica. Barcelona: Antropos, 2001. 247-300.