Gallery Talk:

“The Environment, Arts & Socioeconomy:

Interdependence & Success in Ancient & Modern Mexico”

2 pm, Saturday, June 27, 2015 @ Bihl Haus Arts

In the summer of 2014, Prof. Rachael F. Brown (Visual Arts, South Texas College) participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute titled “Pictorial Histories: the ‘Graphic Novels’ of the Mixtec and Aztec” in Oaxaca, Puebla and Mexico City. The experience of in-depth study and discussion of Mesoamerican codices, combined with visits to museums, archives, archeological sites and contemporary artist’s ‘talleres’ (workshops), revealed a complex interrelationship between art, the environment and socioeconomy, both in the past as well as in the present.

As an artist and art historian with deep interest in the environment and the many challenges faced by contemporary society, Prof. Brown found significance in the thriving artistic communities of Oaxaca, and was also fascinated by the ties of the modern workshops to many of the artistic luxury goods recognizable in Mixtec and Aztec codices and other documents.

To further illuminate the interrelationships and connections, Prof. Brown examined several examples of products taken from the environment that have and continue to provide work for artisans, and artisanal products for both everyday use as well as the ‘elite’ consumer. Just a few examples are: Fibers from various plants used for weaving, embroidery, and basketry; tree gourds; corn—many parts of the plant are incorporated into religious artworks in particular—; clay gathered and processed into ceramic works; and the insect, cochineal, propagated and harvested to create the base for several colors used in paints and dyes for luxury items.

Brown’s research suggests that the model presented by both ancient and modern Mixtec and Zapotec artists of the state of Oaxaca provides encouragement—that by creating and acknowledging the interconnectedness of the arts, environment and socioeconomy, all are strengthened and enjoy greater success.