I was selected to participate in a collective work of art known as the Mayan Parade. Along with other artists from around the world, I was asked to paint a contemporary sculptural interpretation of Pakal, a central Mayan deity. The finished sculptures will be placed publicly to celebrate the the next phase of the Mayan calendar. I am waiting to find out where mine will be placed
Follow along for reflections of my trip and inspiration for the piece I call, “Circle of Rebirth”
Designed by prominent Mexican artist Karla de Lara, the sculpture captures the essence of the ancient carved effigies of Pakal in a sleek geometric reinterpretation. This literal combination of old and new echoes the dichotomous nature of Mayan mythology. After thinking about the sculpture, I decided one side would be very colorful, and the other side black and white.
The inspiration for the painting of my sculpture came primarily from four sources: the design of the sculpture, Mayan theology, the aesthetic and conceptual aspects of my abstract style, and my experience in Mexico. The black and white side relates to codes and symbols and how we continue to decipher Mayan relics. The colorful side is inspired by the cyclical nature of Mayan theology and time. The minimal gold and silver face represents purity and prosperity. More importantly, it represents the energy of the present by literally reflecting the environment and people facing the Pakal.
For me, part of understanding the self is to focus on the now. I try to embody a philosophy which harnesses the present while I am in the physical act of painting. The maxim “Everything is Connected” is central to my abstract imagery. Exploiting the natural physicality of painting, with its perpetual erosion and malleability, I’m interested in how our environment is ultimately a subjective experience open to personal interpretation and affected by collective experience.
Painting has much in common with the Mayan ideology of perpetual continuation: when one sensation ends another begins.
The imagery on one side is overlapping and intermingled shapes of vibrant color. Because there is no definitive notion of space, the viewer experiences the sensations and dynamic imagery differently every time. While working on this side I embraced the simultaneous feeling of contraction and expansion inspired by Mayan philosophy, de Lara’s design, and energies in the universe. The plastic, the ephemeral and everything in-between are intertwined. Capricious organic forms play off of crisp geometric shapes.
The other side is black and white. My approach on this side was to create imagery that relates to Mayan mathematical and semiotic language. Memory and active perception are in flux as first impressions dissolve and new revelations emerge. When looking at these marks and shapes the viewer is free to assign meaning and to revel in sensation. The public and personal is ambiguously intermingled. Both sides of the Pakal are windows of discovery offering a new experience every time they are viewed.
Mayan theology and time are not linear; they are cyclical. The end of the Mayan calendar is the beginning of something new. It’s up to us to decide how we will activate this new awareness. When the Mayan calendar ends, we will not end. We will enter another world, hopefully with a new awareness of mankind transmitted through art. Mayan Parade is the present collective voice of artists from around the world coming to a culturally rich Mexico to celebrate a new global vision through art. This new era was predicted centuries ago by Mayans in Mexico, and it will be significantly impacted by the awareness perpetuated by this project, which is part of the new face of Mexico.
When I go to Mexico, I get a feeling of the old mixed with the new. The country is full of rich tradition and scenic landscape. On previous visits I felt like a tourist, because I was traveling around with other tourists. I was able to connect with the land, but not completely with the people. I will never forget my Mayan Parade experience in Mexico. From the moment I landed I was treated like family. This enabled me to experience the culture from the inside out. I was able to feel connected to both the land and the people. On this trip in particular, I was completely present in the experience and felt a pulsing new energy I’ve never felt before. Through my creative process, this expansive energy I felt will be forever alive in my Pakal. Mexico, you are forever a part of me, and I will return to you.
Paul Zepeda and Jeremy Penn, friends and fellow NYC artists, created their own amazing Pakals. Check them out below.
Stay tuned for event coverage and more media.