My life’s preoccupation has been to give voice to the unspoken and unseen. 

My artist practice found its first engagement with this in the Altiplano (Highlands) region of Guatemala in the early 1970’s.  

Below is some of the work available from that period of my practice and stories about my subjects.

PINK CHURCH: SAN JUAN ATITÁN

The central church of the municipality of San Juan Atitán in the department (of which there are 22) of Huehuetenango. 

Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches, framed

 

COFRADIA, PATAUN WITH ANCIENT SYMBOLS

Cofradias are preservationists of Mayan religious practices.  The Mayan symbol of a rabbit, to her right, also called "the mayor" represents the struggle to overcome the material state.  It symbolises fertility and new beginnings.  The frog represents a comfort of adaptability and change. 

47 x 17 inches, cut-out, one-sided

 

CHICHICASTENANGO DANCER AND KUKLAKAN (TWO SIDED)

Acrylic enamel and 23 carat gold on board, 20 x 48 inches.

Exhibited: Paris 1973.

A young dancer from Balle De Los Moros dressed in the costume of Spanish conquistadores performs the ritual dance for the resurrection of Christ. On the reverse side is Kuklakan, the Mayan god of wisdom, emerging from a shell, the symbol for a woman's sex.


DON BITY

Don Bity, the sexton at the church in Livingston, a silted over old port city which is on the border with Belize where the Rio Dulce empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

36 x 45.5 inches framed

 

A MESSENGER OF THE GODS NAHUALÁ (TWO SIDED)

These boxes traditionally house the Black Christ of Esquipulas, a shrine that is in many houses. I have replaced the Black Christ with a landscape of the village of Nahualá.

Acrylic and enamel on wood, 36 x 18 inches.
Exhibited: London 1974.

 

PLUMED SERPENT (TWO SIDED)

Acrylic and enamel on board, 32 x 22 inches.
Exhibited: London 1974.

Luisa is in a traditionally woven 'corte' (skirt) but on her head, instead of a woven woman's cloth, she has a white towel. I gave her the god, Kuklakan, as her protecting spirit (see reverse side).

 

CHACS

Chaac of the Chuj tribe living in the San Mateo Ixtatán municipality of Guatemala.  

Chaac (also spelled Chac, or in classic Mayan, Chaahk) are the minor gods of wind, rain, agriculture, etc.

 

23 x 35 inches, one sided

 

EL MORCIELEGO (TWO SIDED)

Acrylic and enamel on wood, 25 x 22 inches. London

As portrayed on the reverse side of the figure, the Mayans believed that each human has an animal spirit that protects them. Often people called each other by their spirit name because to call a man by his human name too often destroyed its magic. The reverse side is a bat, symbolizing as it did in China, wisdom and good fortune.

Don Thomas had been a Cofrade, but the neighbors told me he was so old now he could not afford to be a Catholic anymore.  

 

MURCIELAGO OF PANAHACHEL

Acrylic on board, 44 x 39 inches framed.
Exhibited: Ross Thiele & Sons Gallery, La Jolla, California, 1978.  

What you cannot see is that woven into the back of his jacket is the shape of a bat, the more ancient Guatemalan god of wisdom. The Guatemalans, like the Chinese, regarded the bat as the embodiment of wisdom since he could both fly into the earth and soar above it, therefore, it was able to comprehend multiple levels of existence.

NAHUALÁ CHURCH

Parroquia of Nahualá 

Acrylic on canvas

12 x 12 inches framed

 

ESTE PORTADA CEACABO EN FEBRERO DE 1649

Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 39 inches. 

Exhibited: Ross Thiele & Sons Gallery, La Jolla, California, 1978.

This pink church with its title - The door was finished in February of 1649 - stands near the entrance of Antigua, one of the old capitols of Central America. It is covered with symbols: evangelists with enormous long ears of wisdom; the Hapsburg eagle on the left; to the right is Santiago charging over three volcanoes (symbolizing Spain's ecclesiastical conquest of Central America). In the center, below the Virgin, an angel holds up her pedestal but instead of a loincloth he wears a flor de monja, Guatemala's national flower.

 

ROBERTA CATARIN GUARCHAJ AND THE BLACK SAINT

NAHUALA, GUATEMALA

Acrylic, enamel and copper foil on board, 42 x 62.5 inches framed. Exhibited: Ross Thiele & Sons Gallery, La Jolla, California, 1978. 

Roberta Catarina Guarchaj and her opened escapulario reflect the devotion of the people of Nahuala to the Black Christ of Esquipulas. Every spring they take their seed corn on pilgrimage for benediction at the Basilica of the Black Christ.

 

The Nahualanos hang escapularios around their necks with a heavy cord. Inside is an image of the Black Christ and their seed corn. It is a magnificent sight to see the pilgrims climbing the hills toward the basilica with these enormous medallions on their chests. It is also a rare sight these days since the Cofradia now usually hire buses to make the trip.

 

All the painted gourds and tinsel that cover Roberta's escapulario are the usual fare that decorates the homeward bound pilgrim, whether on their hats, escapularios, bicycles or buses.

 

Behind Roberta are two-headed eagles called 'Cot' in most Mayan languages. Cot was the ancient god of Good and Evil and, like humans, his duty was to navigate a path down the middle road of life

SIESTA SAN LUCAS TOLIMAN, LAKE ATITLÁN (TWO SIDED)

In Mayan mythology, the dog represents a protector of the family and a symbol of walking people into the afterlife.  

27.5in x 17in, two-sided

 
 

LAKE ATITLÁN TRYPTIC

TOWER GUARD OF THE PARROQUIA NAUHALÁ

From the bell tower, the Cofrade could survey everything happening in their village.

42.5 x 18 inches

 

A MESSENGER OF THE GODS, DON BALTIZAR, NAUHALA (TWO SIDED)

The lacquered side is in perfect condition, the painted side is severely damaged. This is a companion piece to the "Nahuala box" in the Guatemala series.

 

BLUE BIRD COFRADE FROM ATITLÁN (TWO SIDED)

Acrylic and Lacquer on wood, 36 x 22 inches framed. 

Exhibited: London 1974. 

 

Cofradias are preservationists of Mayan religious practices.  Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America located in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

Acrylic and enamel on board, 29 x 23 inches.
Exhibited: London 1974.

 

HA NARI OF PATZÚN

Inocente Chauluk home. 

 

Acrylic on board, 39 x 26.5 inches. 

Exhibited in 1978 at Ross Thiele & Sons Gallery, La Jolla, CA.

Ha Nari is a much-used Cachiquel expression. It signifies agreement, "So it is." It is used in familiar jargon in the same manner and with the same frequency as Americans use "OK". 

 

Don Inocente Chauluk is sitting in front of the door to his house.  Written in chalk on the door is my lesson in Cachiquel - "NUM CHUC - tengo hambre" - (I'm hungry).

 

VIEW FROM PATZÚN

Patzún is a municipality in the department of Chimaltenango.  The Kaqchikel Indians are famous for their ferocity.  

Canvas, 11 x 11 inches

 

ST. PALONIA (TWO SIDED)

16.5 x 18 inches acrylic on wood

VIRGINS OF PATZÚN

Acrylic on board, 28.5 x 41 inches. 

      Triangles radiate from the circular neck of the 'huipil' (blouse) to depict the sun. Complementing the initial row of triangles is a second row of inverted, loosely embroidered pyramids symbolizing rain that, together with the warmth of the sun, are responsible for the fertility of the earth. Bolts of embroidered "lightning" encircle the neckline, and centered on both the front and back of the blouse are two navy blue semi-circular "moons". The wearer thus carries both within her and upon her garments the life forces of the earth. The black and white 'faja' (belt) is colored for protection, a continuation of the belief that Mayan warriors evidenced when they painted themselves black before going into battle.

 

COT (TWO SIDED)

Lacquer, acrylic and silver leaf on carved panel, 31 x 25 inches.

Exhibited: Paris 1973. 

 This old Cofrade wears a black enamel straw hat as part of the symbol of his leadership, a custom which has almost been completely supplanted by the use of the black felt hat. On the reverse side of the image is Cot, the ancient god of Good and Evil.

TEXEL OR COFRADE DE SANTA CRUZ, NAHUALA

Acrylic and aluminum foil on board, 33 x 21 inches framed.
 

The Texel is in charge of guarding the treasures and statues of the organisation. The Santa Cruz has been sacred since Mayan times, both as a symbol of the sacred tree of the Cross and as a symbol of the crossing of the four divisions of the earth into which all gods were divided.

A Texel or Cofrade is invested into office for one year. During this year his entire family goes to live in the house where the images are kept, along with three other families, a total of four, one for each of the directions of the earth.  

As symbols of her office, the Texel has her processional candle and her exceptionally embroidered 'huipil' (blouse) with lace collar. She is kneeling inside the saints' room which is decorated with paper streamers and has pine needles strewn on the floor.

 

DON BALTIZAR AND THE BLACK SAINT

Nahuala, Guatemala

 

Acrylic, enamel and copper foil on board, 42 x 62.5 inches framed. 

Exhibited: Ross Thiele & Sons Gallery, La Jolla, California, 1978.

Don Baltizar and his closed escapulario reflect the devotion of the people of Nahuala to the Black Christ of Esquipulas. Every spring they take their seed corn on pilgrimage for benediction at the Basilica of the Black Christ.

 

The Nuhualanos hang escapularios around their necks with a heavy cord. Inside is an image of the Black Christ and their seed corn. It is a magnificent sight to see the pilgrims climbing the hills toward the basilica with these enormous medallions on their chests. It is also a rare sight these days since the Cofradia now usually hire buses to make the trip.

 

Behind Don Baltizar are two-headed eagles called 'Cot' in most Mayan languages. Cot was the ancient god of Good and Evil and, like humans, his duty was to navigate a path down the middle road of life.

 

ESQUIPULAS PILGRIM (TWO SIDED)

The pilgrim is wearing the hat that shows he has brought his orn to be blessed at the shrine of the Black Christ in Esquipulas.  His jacket suggests that he is a Mayordomo.  The alligators name in ancient Mayan was Imix.

Acrylic and enamel on board with aluminum foil edge, 24 x 35 inches.
Exhibited: London 1974.

PALOMA OF LAKE ATITLÁN

Acrylic and silver on wood, 25.7 x 26.8 inches framed.

The landscape is a view from Lake Atitlan behind the young woman in her Sunday headdress. She has miles of woven ribbon wrapped around her head to make this headdress. The other indigenous language groups of Guatemala always make fun of the people from the villages surrounding Lake Atitlan and say they are frivolous, put too much embroidery on their clothes and never prepare for tomorrow.  

MAJOR DOMO OF NAHUALÁ CHURCH

GUARDANO DE LOS MASCARAS DEL BALET DE VENADO, PATZUN

Acrylic on wood, 48.25 x 48.25 inches framed. 

Exhibited: Ross Thiele & Sons Gallery, La Jolla, California, 1978. 

Marcelo Tum is in charge of the dance of the deer. Here he sits between the masks in his charge. To his right is El Tigre, the jaguar's head with mirror eyes and only three remaining teeth in his large grinning mouth. Since there are no jaguars in the Guatemalan Highlands, only bobcats, the resemblance of the mask to a tiger is faint. On the left are two masks: El Mono, the monkey; and El Mazat, the deer. For the Maya, the monkeys were the messengers of the gods. The beautiful Mazat with real antlers is the victim. 

 

Don Marcelo is in the traditional dress of the Cachiquel men from the Chimaltenango area: blue shirt; navy blue wool tailored jacket; multi-colored belting ('faja'); wool check front piece ('delantal'); and white pants. On his shirt he has crossed two large safety pins, a modern method of making a double cross which is a traditional Mayan good luck symbol. On his lapel is a medal of the Virgin Mary enclosed in a heart.

 

Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America located in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

Canvas, 11 x 11 inches each, set of three

GUATEMALAN PENTAPTYCH

Pentaptych, built to honor my memories of Guatemala and all that I learned from the indigenous communities while living and working there.  I can remember children coming out in villages I visited, laughing at me because they didn't know if I was a man or woman, because I was wearing pants.  In a long ago world, way before the internet, where human encounters could still be miraculous - for them and for me.  

 

Entire piece 49 x 146.5 inches (4 x 12.2 ft) framed

Child in White 49 x 34 inches framed

Drum 49 x 24.5 inches framed

Masks 49 x 29 inches framed

Loom 49 x 24.5 inches framed

Banana Leaves 49 x 34.5 inches framed