Artist’s Statement for The Eleven Eleven Series; The Socratic Codices
What is this Eleven-Eleven series you ask, what is it all about? Well, it has few different parts. First, each work has its own theme combining a coherent family of four elements. These range from the familiar four directions of north, south, east and west to the lesser known (in Western culture) Bhutanese motif of the four harmonious friends, the elephant, hare, monkey and partridge. The particular families I am depicting were already there. I did not discover them but rather stumbled on their symbolic commonalities. This takes me to the second part of the series; its symbolic definition. The families are indicative of a quadrant, a location, upon the map of our collective minds and elude to the connectedness we have one with another and one with nature.
The meaning ‘Socratic’ is a form of inquiry and debate between individuals with opposing viewpoints based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas. ‘Codices’ is a Latin word originally meaning “trunk of a tree” referring to the pre-Columbian Aztec history books. I assure you this is not a plot to try to get everyone to think the same—it is more like an invitation to think outside your comfort zone for the benefit of mankind. The goal of ‘The Socratic Codices’ is my attempt to intervene on the behalf of society and Nature and, again, highlight the connection we necessarily have but so easily forget.
Each of the 22 pieces I have constructed each of them myself, out of birch panels with pine returns. They are all mixed media combining charcoal, prisma colored-pencils, oil and chalk pastel as well as oil paint.
This piece is about a Mayan deity transforming over the course of generations, even centuries, into the image of what is now widely recognized as the Virgin Mary. When the Spaniards arrived in Central America and invaded the tribal nations, their presence and influence was the catalyst for a religious paradigm-shift. In an effort by the indigenous people to retain at least a shred of their own religion in the face of the aggressive conversion efforts by the Christian colonizers, they were drawn especially to the story of Mary because of the uncanny similarity to their own virgin mother deity named Tonantzin. It was written that when the old, revered monuments of Tonantzin were smashed to the ground, the plaster was re-ground and used to make the new Christian statues. The Virgin Mary's image was used more than any other. Over the years the people's devotion to her strengthened and, in many ways, is more highly esteemed and worshiped than Jesus or the Holy Father. So in this piece, Metamorphosis of a Butterfly, I wanted to emphasize the origin of Mexico's love for the Sacred Mother. If not for the similarities between her and their own mother, Tonantzin, I believe many thousands or even millions more would have perished at the hands of the invaders out of their refusal to accept the new, foreign God.
Additionally, it is very common to see a plethora of Virgin Mary merchandise in the same Mexican establishments that market their business to "crossers" or those folk who migrate north over the border separating Mexico and the US. For those who are desperately compelled to risk their own lives, to leave their own families and seek the promise of a living found in the US by crossing illegally through the treacherous desert lands, the Virgin Mary is held as the protector of all the people; she is everyone's mother. In its own way, the butterfly is also a crosser of borders as it travels back and forth over southwest lands of Mexico and the US. Symbolically, she embodies their spirit and shows crossers the way North, and sometimes when they just can't make it, back South, too.
This series was a long time in the making, 20 plus years in fact, although for most of that time I didn't know what the series would actually consist of. When I finally figured it all out I found myself with a daunting list of almost 90 paintings. I decided 22 to start would be a good number, at that point I had eight months to get them done. This time in my life was wretched with grueling studio work. At the end my body was in constant pain, a pressure on my eyes persisted for about two months after and mentally I was drained of all my creativity, it was a little unnerving, but I was proud of the accomplishment. Will I do that again? Probably.