Friday, December 21, 2012

Central American Artifacts

Two good things: The world didn't end— and everyone is thinking about the Maya culture.

On that theme, here are some oil renderings I did of artifacts from Maya and other Central American cultures for a 1986 National Geographic map supplement.

10 comments:

Random York said...

Oh no! If I am reading that second artifact correctly it's tomorrow, the 22nd! That's the day the world ends!

Merry Christmas!
John York

etc, etc said...

I've always found it fascinating that much of Mayan painted pottery resembles that of ancient Greece.

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Anonymous said...

Remember the book and movie "Chariots of the Gods" by Erich von Däniken? That's what got me thinking about the Mayans. They had all kinds of awesome technology. Only thing... nobody told them that making all those electronics and space ships out of stone might not be the best idea. I suppose the world ain't ending either because all their calculations were done on iStone computers which isn't quite as accur... Whoa! what's that in the

Roberto said...

Wow! Very Nice Renderings. I really enjoy your National Geographic work. I’m curious as to what determines your choice of medium, oils or watercolor, for your illustrations. Your watercolors work so well, they remind me of Frederic Catherwood’s or David Roberts’ wonderful work (I believe both of whom have done many paintings of Mayan ruins and artifacts).
I hope you answer this soon, the days not over yet! -RQ

James Gurney said...

Random, no one found the whole Maya thing more funny than David Stuart, who translated the stelae and helped advise on this Nat Geo project.

Thanks, Roberto. I love Catherwood and Roberts, too. When I'm doing book illustrations, I usually choose a medium for the whole book, so all the Dinotopia pictures are done in oil, which give me the most flexibility. I'm using water media more and more lately, not only for plein air sketching, but for some comps and finishes.

Anonymous, I ran across von Daniken's books in high school, and they really floored me. Glad you hit the "Submit" key before the asteroid hit.

Etc, etc. Intriguing. Seems to me that certain stylistic ideas in decorating pottery (the colors, stripes, silhouettes) are just inherent in the medium. Hard to imagine how culture contact between Greeks and Mesoamerican civilizations would be possible, not only because of space, but also time.

etc, etc said...

Seems to me that certain stylistic ideas in decorating pottery (the colors, stripes, silhouettes) are just inherent in the medium.

James,
About a century ago there was a fascinating debate going on among art historians over this very art "technical-materialist" issue (in a manner that had more generalized implications for all arts), with Gottfried Semper holding a position similar to yours, to which in opposition Alois Riegl addressed his classic work Stilfragen. Carl Schuster's Patterns That Connect: Social Symbolism in Ancient & Tribal Art is also interesting reading and viewing along these lines.

L Benson said...

People focused on Maya culture, but mostly with continued misconceptions :( Such a shame since the Maya are so interesting... even today:

http://lindaabenson.blogspot.com/2012/12/maya-time-guatemala-maya-children.html

Roberto said...

“Hard to imagine how culture contact between Greeks and Mesoamerican civilizations would be possible, not only because of space, but also time.”… could this be a strange example of the ‘Howdy-Doody Effect’? –RQ

@ L Benson- Thanx for the link. ‘A wheel within a wheel,’ what a concept! Our ‘modern’ culture has not yet caught up to our own scientific speculations as to the nature of time and space, we still think in linear terms of beginning and ending, as opposed to ‘continuums’ or ‘infinite-singularities’ or ‘universal-constants’ or ‘embedded parallel dimensions’ or ‘multi-verses.’ I sometimes have difficulty telling my lepht from my write! -RQ

obat asam urat said...

nice post, really i like your blogg

L Benson said...

Many thanks Roberto. I agree! I think the beauty of Maya cosmology was the way in which their empirical observations of the earth and sky were woven into their stories, aesthetics, social relationships, farming and the human life cycle. the Museum of the American Indian has a wonderful series of short videos that touch on this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb5GKmEcJcw&playnext=1&list=PLC11891DB693499CA&feature=results_main

Thanks for posting on my blog... but I don't find your blog link (?)