Roberto Gonzalez Sacred Waters Exhibition

Ruben C. Cordova, Curator

Roberto Gonzalez: Sacred Waters is an exhibition comprised of 44 recent large-scale paintings that treat pre-Columbian imagery as experienced through dreams and visions inspired by Jungian psychological theory. Gonzalez, a San Antonio-based visual and performance artist, painted abstract paintings from 1972 until 2005. He began this series of figural works in 2010. The exhibition is organized into five groupings: Sacred Waters, Duality, Temazcal (Sweat Lodge), Dreamstacks, and Preludes. Ollin, the mural painting in the lobby, was commissioned specifically for this exhibition.

 

These paintings constitute an aesthetic and psychological exploration of ancient Mexican myth and religion. In the artist’s view, water is an agent of transformation, as well as the source of life. In Gonzalez’s work, water is transfigured by reference to ancient myth and image. Water resonates from ancient symbolic images across the millennia to take on new forms in this time and place.

Roberto Gonzalez: Sacred Waters 

 

Roberto Gonzalez: Sacred Waters is an exhibition comprised of 44 recent large-scale paintings that treat pre-Columbian imagery as experienced through dreams and visions inspired by Jungian psychological theory. Gonzalez, a San Antonio-based visual and performance artist, painted abstract paintings from 1972 until 2005. He began this series of figural works in 2010. The exhibition is organized into five groupings: Sacred Waters, Duality, Temazcal (Sweat Lodge), Dreamstacks, and Preludes. Ollin, the mural painting in the lobby, was commissioned specifically for this exhibition.

 

These paintings constitute an aesthetic and psychological exploration of ancient Mexican myth and religion. In the artist’s view, water is an agent of transformation, as well as the source of life. In Gonzalez’s work, water is transfigured by reference to ancient myth and image. Water resonates from ancient symbolic images across the millennia to take on new forms in this time and place.

 

As someone who is deeply immersed in Jungian psychology, Gonzalez believes that trauma and pain can be transferred across generations from parent to child. He identifies with the pre-Columbian cultures of Mexico, and feels the pain of the loss and destruction of their cultures “beyond measure.” His dreams, meditations, and art are therapeutic practices intended to heal these ancient wounds.  

 

Gonzalez envisions forms and colors. They give rise to strong emotions and the compulsion to paint. He paints the shapes and colors that he has already seen. He does not work with language-based concepts or intellectual programs of any kind. Prior to the preparations for this exhibition, Gonzalez had not tried to put his paintings into categories, or discern their meaning. Nor had he given any of the paintings titles.

 

“These images are gifts,” says the artist. “I open myself to them in gratitude and share them with mystery.” 

  

The exhibition begins with Sacred Waters in the blue gallery on the right. Sacred Waters continues through the blue corridor in the center of this floor, leading to the Dreamstack series on the gold wall. The Temazcal (Sweat Lodge) series flows along the brown walls on the left of the blue corridor, and Duality series flows along the red walls on the opposite side. The Preludes are located on white walls in the far corners.

 

Gonzalez begins with a pencil sketch on 8 ½ by 11” graph paper. He transfers this design to a large canvas with a graffiti art marker, and then utilizes pastel and acrylic paint to create the colored surface. Gonzalez sometimes imbeds textiles and other objects onto the canvas to create texture. He also makes dramatic and reflective outlines and accents by cutting out thin portions of brass and copper plates, which he also attaches to the canvas.

 

Next he takes a sheet of vinyl plastic, which he temporarily attaches to the canvas so that he can draw out the composition. Then Gonzalez attaches the plastic sheet to a second canvas, which is utilized as a temporary support. He applies paint to the reverse side of the plastic with a ten-foot stick attached to a power drill and a variety of hand made tools. In this manner, he creates dramatic chiaroscuro (light-dark contrasts). 

 

When he has finished painting on the plastic sheet, Gonzalez paints a layer of clear acrylic on the original canvas, and lays the painted plastic sheet over it, registering the plastic sheet with his original sketch. He carefully squeegees the air bubbles out of the plastic, and then staples the vinyl plastic to the original canvas. The wet acrylic pulls the paint from the plastic sheet onto the canvas. This process is called decal transfer. Gonzalez turns the painting upside down to let it dry. When the transfer is complete, he utilizes custom-made knives of his own design to cut and remove sections of the plastic. Gonzalez utilizes the remaining portions of the plastic as stencil masking elements: he fills in the void spaces on the canvas that are left by the excised plastic with bright colors. When these steps are completed, Gonzalez removes all of the remaining plastic from the painting. In some instances, he does some additional painting after the plastic has been removed.

 

Gonzalez had begun using decal transfer techniques in the 1980s. Though they entail complex processes with many steps, they have become almost second nature to the artist. Gonzalez is so adept with these techniques that he completed 52 large canvases last year.

 

The Dreamstack paintings (black and white paintings on the far side of the exhibition) are made by completely different means. In these works, Gonzalez utilizes white paint on a black ground to capture the immediacy of a dream image in a manner akin to his initial sketches for his other paintings. Including the Dreamstacks, this body of work now totals about 150 paintings.

 

Pre-Columbian Iconography, Dream Images, and Carl Jung

 

Gonzalez had worked as an abstract artist from 1972 until 2005, when he felt compelled to move beyond abstraction because it could not express everything he wanted to say as an artist.

 

At the same time, Gonzalez had a deepening appreciation of what psychologist Carl G. Jung (1875-1961) called soma (the body). Gonzalez came to believe that a renewed understanding of his own physical embodiment served as a bridge to pre-Columbian consciousness and to figural imagery, which he accessed through dreams. For this reason, bridges appeared in many of his earliest figural paintings (which predate the paintings in this show). Gonzalez has had a deep interest in Jung since he read The Undiscovered Self when he was fourteen years old.*

 

Jung argued that a universal collective unconscious filled with primordial images called archetypes constituted the common heritage of the entire human race, regardless of historical epoch, cultural influences, or geographic circumstances. While Jung held that the conscious mind of every person was uniquely individual, he believed that the unconscious was a storehouse of forms that found expression in myths and symbols that manifested themselves repeatedly throughout human existence. These ideas have had a substantial impact on popular culture. One example is the influence they had on Joseph Campbell’s writings on myth, which George Lucas consulted when he was working on the scripts for his Star Wars films. 

 

Jung held that the collective unconscious exerts an enormous influence on all of humanity: resisting and repressing the unconscious causes neurosis and dissociation; creatively exploring and embracing the unconscious, on the other hand, leads to healing and completeness. Jung himself made art, and he believed that art could be an important therapeutic tool. As he developed his theories, Jung kept detailed diaries, which he subsequently transcribed into a large red leather volume that he illustrated himself. A facsimile edition was published in 2009.**

 

Through his explorations of the Jungian unconscious, Gonzalez makes psychic journeys that bring him into contact with his indigenous ancestors, enabling him to see through their eyes and experience their worlds. “I believe it is through my paintings that I begin to heal,” declares the artist. 

 

For the purposes of his art, the early morning is the most vital time for Gonzalez. The most critical juncture is when he is coming out of a dream state, “standing between consciousness and unconsciousness.” Gonzalez has developed what he calls a “creative collaborative relationship with the unconscious.” Through “lucid dreaming” and deep meditation, Gonzalez believes that he can “psychically go back in time” by harnessing the “jet-stream where the ancestors are waiting,” and where they are able to provide him with positive creative connections and sources of inspiration.

 

In order to better familiarize himself with pre-Hispanic artifacts and imagery, Gonzalez visited archaeological sites and he studied museum collections, books, and images of Tlaloc, Cocijo, Chac and other Mexican rain gods that he accessed through ARTstor. He deploys these pictorial elements in a “spirit of mixture” by creatively combining particular details and devices without seeking archaeological completeness or specificity.

 

*Jung, C. G. 1958. The undiscovered self. Boston: Little, Brown.

**Jung, C. G., Sonu Shamdasani, Mark Kyburz, John Peck, and Ulrich Hoerni. 2009. The red book = Liber novus. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

 

For an introduction to Jungian psychology with special reference to art, see: Jung, C. G., and Marie-Luise von Franz. 1964. Man and his symbols. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Sacred Waters

 

Water is life. Ancient Mexican cultures revered jade and Quetzal feathers above gold and all other substances because their shimmering blue-green surfaces were the color of water, the color of life itself. Pilgrimages were made to sacred bodies of water, where jade and gold objects were thrown into the waters as offerings. 

 

Water was either too scarce or too perilously overabundant in most of ancient Mesoamerica. In the Gulf Coast region of Mexico, home to the Olmec, the mother culture of Mesoamerica, the water gods protected against devastating storms and deadly floods. In more arid regions, they brought life-sustaining rain. 

 

Prolonged draught led to the Classic Maya Collapse, resulting in the abandonment of many of the great Maya city-states by 900 A.D. As a resident of the Texas hill country in Mico since 2002, Roberto Gonzalez became all-too-familiar with the effects of drought. His well dried out and he prayed for rain. He subsequently celebrated every rainfall and came to “measure my life according to the rains.” 

 

Each of the paintings in the Sacred Waters section contains pictorial elements taken from one or more Mexican water god. One of Gonzalez’s chief sources of inspiration for this theme was a chart by Miguel Covarrubias, who wrote important books on the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Covarrubias’ ingenious chart showed how the water gods in other major Mesoamerican cultures evolved from Olmec examples, including the Maya god Chac, the Teotihuacan rain god (name unknown), the Zapotec god Cocijo, and the Toltec and Aztec god Tlaloc.* Covarrubias, a self-taught artist with no college training in any field, corrected the many scholars who believed that the Classic Maya (300 – 900 AD) were the originators of Mesoamerican culture. Mesoamerican culture is now viewed as a continuum that stretches back to 1500 BC or even earlier, when Olmec culture began.  

 

The elements Gonzalez takes from these water gods include fangs (which have their origin in Olmec jaguar imagery), large and round “goggle” eyes from Chac and Tlaloc (that perhaps evolved out of cloud-shaped Olmec eyebrows), a cleft forehead (which, in some Olmec examples, had corn sprouting on both sides of the cleft), and a stylized, toothless open mouth (which also originated with the Olmec). Gonzalez often includes stylized representations of water falling from open mouths or water vessels, and pools of water bubbling up from the earth. In all of these images the artist endeavors to “celebrate the color and energy of nature.”

 

Gonzalez employs his precious rainwater in his art: “I use rainwater to dilute my acrylics. It flows and extends colored pigment across a taut surface. Water flows through my veins and across my brow. As an artist I look to my ancestors, especially the artists who lived and painted thousands of years ago. I am compelled to visit them and learn. I don’t learn their technique and processes, but rather their fierceness of spirit: what it means to be birthed from waters, to live, to create, and to become dust and return to the earth.”

 

The Sacred Waters series continues on both sides of the two blue walls in the center of the next gallery, which serves as a symbolic river that gives life to the other series. 

 

*Covarrubias, Miguel. 1957. Indian Art of Mexico and Central America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, p. 60.

 

For a discussion of Covarrubias’ chart (including recent theories that revise his interpretation), see Markman, Peter T., and Roberta H. Markman. 1989. Masks of the spirit: image and metaphor in Mesoamerica. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 9-11.

 

For a guide to Mesoamerican gods and imagery, see: Miller, Mary Ellen, and Karl A. Taube. 1993. The gods and symbols of ancient Mexico and the Maya: an illustrated dictionary of Mesoamerican religion. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Duality

 

Duality, the belief that pairs of opposing forces are in conflict, is a key concept in both Mesoamerican religion and Jungian psychology. The Duality walls are red. Red stands for fire, a transformative, unstable, consuming agent associated with many opposites, such as creation and destruction, good and evil.* 

 

The principal of duality is represented in many surviving masks and sculptures from Mesoamerica that feature a face that is half skull and half living flesh. The earliest known example is a mask from Tlatilco in the Valley of Mexico from around 1000 BC.  

 

Professor James Maffie points out that for Mesoamericans, 

 

“Life and death are mutually arising, interdependent, complementary, and competing aspects of one and the same process. They are inextricably bound to one another since neither can exist without the other. Life without death is impossible, just as is death without life. Life contains the seed of death; death, the fertile, energizing seed of life. Life feeds off the death of other things, and so has a negative aspect. Death feeds life, and so has a positive aspect. In short, life and death are ambiguous: both positive and negative.”**

 

Maffie points out that the Tlatilco life/death mask is intentionally ambiguous: “Skulls simultaneously symbolize death and life, since life springs from the bones of the dead. Flesh simultaneously symbolizes life and death, since death arises from living flesh.”** For Mesoamericans, bones were powerful reservoirs of vital life forces. The Aztecs believed that the god Quetzalcoatl reanimated the human race by sprinkling his blood on human bones that he stole from the underworld. Maffie adds that these dualistic masks are “neither-alive-nor-dead yet at the same time both-alive-and-dead.” Moreover, all of existence was conceived of as an eternal “back-and-forth struggle” between opposed forces that resulted in the “alternating dominance” of one conflicting element over the other. Consequently, existence was conceived of as an unstable, perpetual struggle that was itself “irreducibly ambiguous (like the life/death masks).”** 

 

Jung also viewed life as a struggle of opposing pairs:

 

“… life consists of a complex of inexorable opposites—day and night, birth and death, happiness and misery, good and evil. We are not even sure that one will prevail against the other, that good will overcome evil, or joy defeat pain. Life is a battleground. It has always been, and always will be; and if it were not so, existence would come to an end.”***

 

The observations Maffie makes about life and death, that they “are mutually arising, interdependent, complementary, and competing aspects of one and the same process” apply equally well to Jung’s formulation of the dynamic between the conscious and the unconscious. 

 

Gonzalez’s first painting in the Duality series was a depiction of a half-skull and half-living human face. The paintings evolved into an energetic set of abstracted fantasy creatures: half-skull and half-butterfly, half-skull and half-scorpion, half- rattlesnake and half fanged-abstraction. The artist had many fatal encounters with Texas rattlers on his homestead and he was compelled to consecrate them in his paintings.

 

Gonzalez is also influenced by other manifestations of duality in folk art, such as modern folk masks, and the fantastical creatures made by the Linares family in Mexico City that are known as Alebrijes (dragons). Whatever his inspiration, Gonzalez always transforms his source material into his own personal artistic language. One of the aims of this body of work is to view transformation and the cycle of life with a celebratory embrace rather than with fear. Gonzalez recognizes this dynamic in Day of the Dead, and he is an active participant in these commemorations in San Antonio. 

 

*Bachelard, Gaston.1964.The psychoanalysis of fire. Boston: Beacon Press.

 

** James Maffie. 2011. “Weaving the Aztec Cosmos: The Metaphysics of the 5th Era,” in Aztecs at Mexicolorehttp://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/home/aztec-philosophy

 

***Carl Jung, Man and his symbols, p. 85. 

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Ruben C, Cordova, Curator giving a gallery talk.

 

 Temazcal (Sweat Lodge)

 

The Temazcal (Sweat Lodge) series references ancient healing traditions. The Temazcal walls are brown to symbolize a brown body covered with steam and sweat, and the earth bathed with rain and dew.

 

In Nahautl (the language of the Aztecs) Temazcal means bath (temas) house (calli). The sweat lodge is among the most widespread of the traditional indigenous medicinal practices of the Americas. In Mesoamerica, it was not utilized primarily as a relaxing sauna (as in Scandinavia and much of the world). Nor did it mostly serve ceremonial uses, as was the practice in much of North America. Instead, as Horacio Riojas Alba observes, the Temazcal was “used in the healing and easing of almost all kinds of medical conditions.”* The sixteenth century Franciscan friar Diego Sahagún noted: "It is used firstly in the convalescence of many sicknesses, so that they should finish healing more rapidly.... All sick people benefit from these baths...."* It was thought to heal a wide range of traumas and afflictions, including contusions, broken bones, skin ailments and growths. According to Sahagún, the Temazcal also aided "pregnant women who are close to giving birth as there the midwives can do certain things so that the birth is easier.” It healed mothers after they gave birth, and it was even credited with purifying their milk.*

 

The Magliabechi Codex, an illustrated manuscript dates from shortly after the Spanish Conquest of 1521, features an indigenous drawing with a Spanish caption that reads: "This is a drawing of the baths of these Indians which they call the temazcalli. At the door of the bath there is an Indian who is the advocate for the sick, and when a sick person goes to the baths he makes an offering and stretches his body on the ground in veneration of the idol which they call Tezcatopocatl and who is one of their principal gods.”* Medicinal herbs were utilized in the steam. 

 

Riojas Alba points out that the Temazcal’s structure follows the cosmic directions: “the fire which heats its stones is placed towards the east where our Father, the sun, the god called Tonatiuh, arises; he is the light or masculine element which comes and fertilizes the womb of the mother earth (the chamber of the Temazcal itself), and so life is conceived. The doorway through which the bathers enter and leave is oriented toward the south, ‘the pathway of the dead,’ which begins with birth and ends in death, to the right of the path of Sun. In this way, the ever-present duality of traditional Mexican thought is manifested. Just as there are mother and father, sun and earth, hot and cold, so we are born and, in being born, we begin our path towards death.”*

 

As Riojas Alba notes, the Temazcal represents the womb: “we enter a small, dark, warm and humid space, in this way recreating the uterus…. Our re-emergence through this narrow opening represents our rebirth from the darkness and silence of the womb.”*

 

Roberto Gonzalez’s father taught him healing sweating techniques when he was a child. In Gonzalez’s paintings the Temazcal serves as a metaphor for self-healing, particularly the trans-historical psychic pain that stems from the destruction of indigenous civilizations in the aftermath of the Spanish Conquest. 

 

For Gonzalez, the Temazcal provides a communion with the ancients. It is also a mechanism for “coming home” to the integrated self.  Thus it also provides a connection to the self and to family and to the local community in the present. 

 

The Temazcal series represents a metaphorical rebirth, an affirmation of physical health, and a reminder of our connection to the earth. In Jungian terms, it is a return to the Great Mother.

 

The paintings as a group feature an aesthetic reduction to minimal features. Black is a sign pointing to the doorway of the darkness of the unconscious.

 

 

Dreamstacks

 

The Dreamstacks are the most immediate and direct paintings Gonzalez has ever done. He uses no preliminary drawings. The paint is applied spontaneously, with no prior sketching or conscious planning of any kind. The series began as images that appeared in dreams. Gonzalez recalls: the term Dreamstack “came to me midway through a lucid dream as a calling to stack the images that were given to me by my unconscious.”

 

This group of paintings is almost purely tonal, nearly all black and white. Several types of white paint (oil, oil stick, spray can paint, acrylic) are applied to black and dark green painted grounds. Dark green is here understood as a life color in opposition to black, which is often interpreted as a death color. Gonzalez believes that the unconscious is more like a black and white painting than a painting with many colors. He associates black with the unconscious because “it can never be fully known.” Since they are simpler transcriptions of dream images than paintings with color, Gonzalez places a special value on this series because it had less need for input from his conscious mind.

 

The Dreamstacks have faces that are split down the middle. One side is clear and the other side is blurry. Perhaps these paintings are visual interpretations of the Jungian concept of “individuation,” wherein the conscious and the unconscious are brought into consciousness together. Jung believed this process was necessary for the integration of the psyche and good mental health:

 

“For the sake of mental stability and even physiological health, the unconscious and the conscious must be integrally connected and thus move on parallel lines. If they are split apart or ‘dissociated,’ psychological disturbance follows…. dream symbols are the essential message carriers from the instinctive to the rational parts of the human mind, and their interpretation enriches the poverty of consciousness so that it learns to understand again the forgotten language of the instincts.”*

 

Jung argues that consciousness is weak and vulnerable. Moreover, over-emphasis on rationality is dangerous: “Consciousness is a very recent acquisition of nature…. It is frail, menaced by specific dangers, and easily injured.”** Jung believes that dreams serve a vital role, since their general function is to “try to restore our psychological balance by producing dream material that re-establishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic equilibrium.”***

 

Gold is used as the background color for the Dreamstacks to symbolize the purity and incorruptibility of the unconscious and the high valuation that the artist places upon it. For Jung, who compared alchemy to psychology, gold also symbolizes the perfected soul.****

 

* Jung, C. G. Man and his symbols, p. 52.

** Jung, C. G. Man and his symbols, p. 24.

*** Jung, C. G. Man and his symbols, p. 50.

**** http://soultherapynow.com/articles/carl-jung.html

Jung, C. G. 1968. Psychology and alchemy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 

Preludes

 

The preludes are primarily non-related, singular works. They are a product of riffing and improvisation shortly after coming out of dream states. Many were made before the various series we have already seen evolved. Gonzalez characterizes these paintings as exercises in “priming the pump.” They are on white walls. White stands for air / ether, the last of the four elements.

 

Joyo and Yol are closely related in scale and color. The artist refers to them as “erect apparitions with fantastical appendages.” Tital represents an abstracted head with markings that stand for ollin, the spirit of movement. These markings are situated as though they were a thought bubble from a head that is reflecting on movement and its association with life. Tenoch consists of three triangular-shaped agave fronds that are buried in the earth with their pointy sides down. 

 

Tequieroamor features an overturned golden vase that appears to be spilling out blood from dark, heart-shaped flowers. The title (I love you love) is ambiguously redundant: it could mean wanting love, wanting my love, wanting to be loved, or simply loving love. Xip is an improvisation on a turtle shell design, an ancient form the artist discovered as a child. Wifa (located on the opposite side of the gold wall next to the entrance to the theater) is a Chicano slang term of endearment for a wife that is usually preceded by la (the), as in la wifa, although Gonzalez notes that “in some circles it may not always be considered a term of appreciation.”

 

Ollin Mural

 

In the indigenous Mexican language Nahuatl, the word ollin means movement, and it is associated with powerful forces, including the sun that moves across the sky, the beating human heart, and earthquakes. The Aztecs called themselves the People of the Sun. They believed that the present world, known to them as the Fifth Sun, was destined to be destroyed by earthquakes, which would end the world until the next cycle of creation brought forth a new one. 

 

“I am Ollin,” declares Gonzalez. “The atomized man standing in the center of the picture represents my inner drive for transformation. The aroused were-jaguar face in the central figure expresses the need to connect with my core animal nature as a reminder of my life force.” The Olmecs created many composite human / jaguar figures known as were-jaguars, or jaguar transformation figures. They associated jaguars with water, and the powerful, potentially deadly storms that rained down on their Gulf Coast habitat. They likely analogized the roar of the jaguar with thunder, and they sought to harness the mighty jaguar’s powers. 

 

In this painting, Gonzalez is both man and beast. This transformative potential symbolizes “spiritual metamorphosis into a more evolved being.” The hummingbird that drinks nectar from the “ear–flower of consciousness” suggests the necessity of being conscious and aware.

 

The dark circular void in the man’s chest serves as “the aperture of the unconscious, positioned at the heart level.” 

 

The swirling black-and-white forms that cover the man’s upper body symbolize the sun and its movements. Secondly, copper outlines within these swirling forms depict the masked head of Cocijo, the Zapotec rain deity, whose body is formed by the blue-green scales beneath the man’s torso. Cocijo’s water torso in turn feeds the corn at the bottom of the painting. Corn provided sustenance to pre-Hispanic civilizations, and it also stands for the vast array of foods developed by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, which constitute vital gifts to the rest of the world. 

 

A large blue, green, and orange atom with yellow rays is situated behind the standing figure. The four circular emblems that swirl around the atom represent the four directions. 

 

An emblem for water is placed at each of the corners of the T’s crossbar. A frog is perched in each of the upper corners. Gonzalez’s father told him that frogs sang for rain because they were thirsty. A stylized representation of Quetzalcoatl (the feathered serpent) inhabits each of the lower corners.

 

The cruciform shape of the canvas itself represents the four directions. A notch in each of the upper two corners reinforces the small v-notch in the very center. That central v-notch references those found in the middle of Olmec rain baby foreheads. For Gonzalez, this notch symbolizes the left and right sides of the human brain and is the mark of consciousness. He believes that as an artist, refining the quality of his consciousness serves as “the only way forward in my creative liberation.”

 

Gonzalez concludes: “I am mestizo, a person of many mixtures, therefore I mix varied pictorial, metaphoric and personal elements in this mural.” He has intentionally positioned many of these elements off center to provide an almost imperceptive suggestion of pictorial movement.

 

Beneath the large ears of corn, Gonzalez inscribed “SANTONYO,” the Chicano slang word for San Antonio, in black graffiti-styled letters. 

Ruben C. Cordova, Guest Curator

Roberto Gonzalez: Sacred Waters

Catalog Artist Statement

 

My life and commitment as a painter came to me when I was 17 years old. I am from South Texas and my family has its roots in the north of Mexico. Throughout my history as a painter I have worked serially where groups of paintings gravitate together in form, content, and spirit. 

 

This exhibition, Sacred Waters is based on a series of paintings created since 2010 and is in homage to the rain deities of Mexico. I have come to hold the spiritual metaphor of “water equals life” as key to my existence. Exploring what the rain deities meant to my ancestors is one way of deepening my fundamental appreciation of life. 

 

There are five series being presented altogether in this exhibition. Besides the Sacred Waters series another series is based on Duality. The concept of duality is universal and is often used to explain life and death. In Mexican cultures and art forms, a skeleton is paired with a human face. Sometimes a skeleton face is joined with an animal face or fantastical creature. In my Duality series I attempt to explore this ancient pictorial tradition.

 

Dreaming as a resource has been an important practice. I developed another series entitled Dreamstacks as a response to dream images and words that came to me in the middle of the night. This group of paintings is limited to a black and white palette as a metaphor for the unconscious mind.

 

One more universal theme that I am exploring is the spiritual concept of the ancient healing sweat bath or Temazcal, as it is known in Mexico. In this series, the primal forms of the ancient sweat bath are reviewed envisioning the Temazcal as a metaphor of a primordial healing mother inspiring renewal.

 

The last series of paintings are entitled Preludes. These are a set of works that represent a working method in support of stimulating new directions. These paintings are one off works inspired by unique visions I have that come to me. I feel compelled to create them just to see where they can take me. 

 

I paint to live. This creative act of painting keeps me alive and resilient. It is also a way of understanding my connection with my ancestors. This contact with them is a vital resource informing my creative process. I practice a way of working that has its ground in the body. 

 

For many decades I made abstract paintings that I tried to think my way through. Now, my creative practice originates in my body and nervous system. This process utilizes sensation in guiding creativity.