Inspiration 101: "What Are They?"

Originally Published: Mar 14, 2017

   One of the most frequent questions I am asked about my work is: "What are they"? I have been approached with a wide array of interpretations regarding my on-going portrait series: lively TV sets, aristocratic fruit, other-worldly beings, unique veggies, the list goes on and on. For those of you who have read my artist statement, you may know that I don't like to give them such specific labels. And for good reason- I love to hear your creative interpretations! But alas, since it is quite often a question, let me take this opportunity to shed some light in to how this series came to be. So, let's take a step back....
     When I was 16, I was fortunate enough to go on a family trip to Mexico. Rather than staying in the typical resort area, we stayed in a small, two bedroom house in a tiny fishing village south of Cancun. I loved the authenticity of the small town and wanted to soak up all I could of the Yucatan culture during our short time there. We did some exploring and visited the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, and it was downright stunning.
     Fast Forward several years, and I am browsing the bargain bin section at Barnes & Noble, when I stumble upon a coffee table book on the Maya. Recalling my fascination with my trip to the Yucatan, I buy the book. It is here, in the photos and illustrations,  that I discovered the remarkable Maya Glyphs. Simple lines and shapes beautifully arranged; I am smitten!

Ancient Mayan calendar glyphs

Image: Sketch drawing of Ancient Mayan calendar glyphs


    These images start to appear in my works as exact copies of particular glyphs, in patterns I create in printmaking, drawing and ceramic relief. However, at this time my main art-making focus was on a series of surrealistic, rendered paintings. Eventually my surrealist rendered paintings began to lose momentum and zeal, mainly due to the fact that: 1. They were laborious; and 2.Given my perfectionist studio tendencies, as time went on the actual painting process was less enjoyable for me. So, eventually I just stopped fighting it and turned away from the rendered paintings in favor of the direction I was going based on inspiration from the glyphs. I realized one of the things I found captivating about the glyphs was how, to me, they seemed to have biomorphic qualities. Perhaps, it was in part that as a child I was always fond of stories which involved fantasy lands and endearing creatures. Think: Wonderland, Oz, Dr. Seuss and Roger Hargreaves. Ultimately,  I began to envision little beings taking on these shapes and lines that I saw in the glyphs. And so it is from here that my portrait series began to develop and evolve. You can take a look at both my surrealist, rendered paintings as well as my early prints and drawings of the glyphs by visiting my archive, here.

A Brief History on the Mayan Glyphs:
     My studio practice and educational training has resulted in an intensive study of Ancient Mayan art. For the Maya, writing was often an important component of their artwork. Their language is considered as some of the most aesthetic and complex in the world. Mayan Scribes were skilled artisans themselves, and many artists were scribes--working with various materials from paint to stone. Scribes held a high place in Maya society, as not everyone knew how to write. Sometimes scribes were even members of the royal court. They also had their own patron god called the Monkey Scribe. The Maya written language was both pictorial and phonetic. Some glyphs represented sounds and could be combined together to create words. Other glyphs were strictly pictorial representations. Today, researchers are able to decipher most of the glyphs.

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