Sunday, May 24, 2009

From the Plaza (Gouache Painting)

The first image is my painting, evoking a grand old church, of which there are many in downtown Oaxaca. This one may be in some pueblo in the valley with the magical blue horse hanging out near an anthropomorphic urn with calla lillies. Actually, Templo Santo Domingo was the inspiration for this painting and others in the small group.

The second image (a postcard) is of dancers on the plaza in front of Templo Santo Domingo performing the Dance of the Pineapple. This dance comes from the tropical area of the state of Oaxaca around Tuxtepec. The beautiful young women wear huipiles (handwoven dresses) representing that area. This dance seems to represent young women's puberty dance--presenting themselves to the pueblo (people). The pineapple is the perfect symbol of the matriz.

Dancers gather to celebrate many things in downtown Oaxaca--sometimes for a public show and sometimes for private events, like marriages at Santo Domingo. Oaxaquenos enjoy the colorful folklorico presentations complete with traditional live music from local bands. It is common to see a group of young people practicing dances in El Llano Park. I love the dances, so energetic, sensual, entertaining, vibrant!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

La Alma de Oaxaca

Gouache Painting by Mitzi Linn "Oaxacascape: City Street"

I love the old adobe and green stone (cantara) architecture of Oaxaca's "El Centro". Living near Santo Domingo in 1988/89, and walking daily through the zocalo on my way to the market, I could see the natural hills and mountains surrounding the small city. I never thought of it as a "colonial city" though Cortes himself built a house there and one time I housesat one of the oldest houses in Oaxaca.

Oaxaca has grown dramatically since 1995. It is a world class tourist destination, named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the 1990's. Many of the old buildings have been restored and some are now museums and libraries, as well as cultural centers. Pedestrian streets opened up. Now it is a "colonial city" in tourist brochures.

People from all over Mexico moved to Oaxaca too, increasing the local population in the valley to a million (or more) people. When I started living part time in Oaxaca in the late 80's, the population was under 200,000 in the valley. Then there were hardly any cars on the streets because credit to buy them was not available. Walking in the city was an intense pleasure. The blooming trees, the quiet neighborhoods.......

A small community of artists, musicians and creative types found each other at El Sol y La Luna restraurant for good food and drink, art exhibits and live music. Then we moved on to La Candela and Los Guajiros to dance to Cuban music. We met at art openings at La Mano Magica and Arte de Oaxaca. I felt a welcome part of this Oaxacan and international scene. It encouraged me to become an artist--the midlife choice that gave me a renewed appreciation of culture and creative expression.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Floral Textiles from Oaxaca

I am posting some examples of Oaxacan embroidery from a textile show several years ago in Oaxaca city. Now there is a textile museum which preserves the beautiful works of women and men artisans. An offering for springing into summer.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Monte Alban--Sacred Ceremonial City

Gouache painting--Oaxacascape: Mercado below, Monte Alban above

Influenced by the Olmecs, the Zapotecs built Monte Alban(Danibaan in Zapotec) on a mountaintop near what is now the city of Oaxaca. Construction began in 500 BC. The site was abandoned around 800 AD. Monte Alban functioned as an inhabited sacred space for over 1000 years, at least 1500 years before the Aztecs came to power in 1200 AD in central Mexico. According to Marcus Winter, an INAH archaeologist who helped excavate it, Monte Alban was one of the first ceremonial cities built by any culture in Mesoamerica. The top of the mountain was leveled and pyramidal bases with temples on top were constructed on an immense flat plaza. They flattened the mountain top without draft animals, wheels or slaves-- an act of devotion to their pantheon of deities. From Oaxaca city you can look up and see the tree and stone walls of the North Temple Complex miles away.

Although Monte Alban wasn’t "discovered" by outsiders until the 20th century, the locals continued to use it as a ceremonial place after its abandonment between the 9th-11th century. Shamans, priests,kings, midwifes and commoners climbed the sacred mountain to make prayers and rituals on top of earth covered pyramids which looked like mounds. So, Monte Alban, while abandoned as a public ceremonial center, continued to be used as a revered, sacred space.

Linda Schele (The Mayan Cosmos) said that the Mayans destroyed their pyramids on purpose and covered them with earth when they abandoned their cities around 800 AD. It was their way of “closing” down these sacred, energy centers. I assume the Zapotecs did the same. Local farmers started planting corn in the old plazas. Danibaan seemed to return to nature. Hernando Cortez and his soldiers never saw the old city on the mountaintop.

Going to Oaxaca, where the archaic integrates with the modern, I finally discovered our continent’s ancient, pre-European civilizations. Standing on a pyramidal temple base at Monte Alban in 1982, I remembered the overgrown "Indian" mound I played on as a child in southern Indiana--it too was built around 500 BC. I intuitively understood their connection. It inspired me to dig into the mystery of our old cultures in the Americas.

excerpt from "Mi Querida Oaxaca" an unpublished manuscript by Mitzi Linn