This piece adorns the door of a Guatemalan arts and crafts gallery in the warehouse district of St Petersburg, FL, named “From Mayan Hands”. They’re on 20th Street and 2nd Ave S. A large mural out front depicts a scene from Guatemalan lore of the god of the underworld chasing down his demons to keep them in check. Look for the Day of the Dead skeletons. And then go to the back, where the front door is located, if you’d like to see this painting in person 🙂
The door references Mayan mysticism along with Catholicism, forces of nature and the Central American landscape. I’ll break it down a bit:
The Virgin, historically in Central America, has come to embody not just the mother of Christ, but the goddess in her own right. When natives took her into their mythology, her appearance changed from a woman of European origin (she should be Semitic anyways, right?) to a woman of mestizo or even native Central American lineage. The Virgin in this painting directly references highland Guatemalan women.
The Serpent is a creator god in Mayan myth, who travels across the night sky and births gods and worlds from his jaws, among other interpretations. Many other cultures revere the serpent as a creator as well, and the images of entwined snakes are found worldwide, from European to the American to Hindu to Austro-Indonesian cultures. Some say snakes represent feminine power or mystique, others propose that ancient peoples saw DNA double helices in the intertwining bodies, through vision quests of various forms, thus clueing in to the source of life long before modern scientific discoveries. The Virgin both upholds the Serpent and is born out of the winds of his breath, past giving birth to the future and future embracing the past.
The ocean currents and waves are born of the serpent’s breath, and intertwine with one another and themselves in an endless ebb and flow. Volcanoes rise out of the sea, bringing both destruction and creation. Central America, more so than the relatively stable mass of North America, is governed by these powerful forces of land and sea, a tiny, very seismically active strip of land separating the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
This piece comes from my soul and my love of Central America. Thanks, “From Mayan Hands”, for the opportunity to explore these ideas.