Sunday, February 05, 2023

An Unexpected Place

Final Voyage, oil on linen, 30 x 48 inches

My most recent painting had a surprising genesis. Amy and I were at a special museum exhibit in Oaxaca featuring art celebrating Xoloitzcuintle dogs. We own one. “Xoloitzcuintles are national treasures in Mexico, with a history that goes back at least 3,000 years. Mentions of these “strange hairless dogs” appear in the journals of Cortez and other European explorers. Ancient Aztecs named the breed for their dog-headed god Xolotl. Xolos were considered sacred by the Aztecs and often were sacrificed and buried alongside their owners to serve as protective guides to the next world. In modern times, Xolos are dedicated watchdogs and companions.”
At one time Xolos were almost extinct, now resurrected they are celebrated. Ancestors of today’s Mexicans held the dog in high regard and today it is the dog most representative of Mexico.

In art, “happy accidents” are gifts. Like a lightning bolt, pure inspiration suddenly comes from an unexpected place. Many times I have labored on art with good intentions only to find I don’t like the outcome. Perhaps it lacks spontaneity, freshness . . . and so I strike out what I have done. Then something new appears in that destruction. A new direction and vision occurs.

At the exhibition, among the paintings, drawings and sculptures, I found myself in front of a glass case. Inside, a bronze sculpture of a boat, holding only an erect Xolo at the bow, showing the way. That moment I got an idea for a painting. I could make another of my “Memento Mori” pieces, commemorating the inevitability of death and passage between worlds.

At home I began gathering together ideas and decided death would row a boat with a casket while a Xolo sat atop, amidst flowers. I would call the work “Final Voyage.” The lake is set among mountains. The mood is somber but a light shows through the clouds, illuminating the waters. The course is set, the journey begun, with our Xolo guide present showing the way.

First study


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