A: I am in the very early stages of a large pastel painting. I have never painted any of these figures before and they originated in different parts of the world. The bird (left) is from the Brooklyn Museum’s store, although it was hand carved in Guatemala. The standing figure is carved wood with beautiful painted details. It was a lucky find on a trip to Panajachel, Guatemala. The armadillo (red and grey) was made by one of my favorite Mexican folk artists (now deceased) and I believe it’s one of the last pieces he completed. It is a papier mâché figure that I found in a small shop in Mexico City. The figure on the upper right is a wooden mask bought from a talkative and talented artist at a hotel in Kandy, Sri Lanka. It depicts nagas (cobras), although you can’t tell that yet in the painting.
Comments are welcome!
Q: Would you talk about how the Judas figures you depict in your pastel paintings function in Mexico?
A: Here’s a good explanation from a website called “Mexican Folk Art Guide”:
“La quema de Judas or the Judas burning in Mexico is a celebration held on Sabado de Gloria (Holy Saturday). Papier mache figures symbolizing Judas Iscariot stuffed with fireworks are exploded in local plazas in front of cheerful spectators.
The Judases exploded in public spaces can measure up to 5 meters, while 30 cm ones can be found with a firework in their back to explode at home.
In Mexico la quema de Judas dates from the beginning of the Spanish colony when the Judas effigies were made with hay and rags and burned. Later as paper became available and the fireworks techniques arrived, thanks to the Spanish commerce route from the Philippines, the Judases were made out of cardboard, stuffed with fireworks, and exploded.
After the Independence War the celebration lost its religious character and became a secular activity. The Judas effigies were stuffed with candies, bread, and cigarettes to attract the crowds into the business [establishment] that sponsored the Judas.
Judas was then depicted as a devil and identified with a corrupt official, or any character that would harm people. In 1849 a new law stipulated that it was forbidden to relate a Judas effigy with any person by putting a name on it or dressing it in a certain way to be identified with a particular person.”
This is why whenever I bring home a Judas figure from Mexico, I feel like I have rescued it from a fire-y death!
Comments are welcome!