* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
The Eastern and Western classics are full of gods, saints, and heroes, all striving against life’s odds and overcoming them with perseverance, courage, energy and hope as well as help from some sort of divine energy. Unlike the gods, the saints, gurus, and heroes are humanized in creative works. Otherwise, we would find it difficult to accept them, relate to them or look up to them for inspiration and courage. It is the humanization of the subject that makes the supernatural sometimes feel real. And sometimes makes the impossible seem reachable and achievable. The classic writings all contain humanized heroes, saints and gods. The characters in these books are so humanized that the courage and inspiration we get from their endurance in overcoming life’s challenges will keep on inspiring readers forever. Because of this we can aspire to their accomplishments. If we too are able to create meaningful works providing timeless inspiration to help others, our work will live on.
Samuel Odoquei in Origin of Inspiration: Seven Short Essays for Creative People
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A: In the early 90’s my late husband, Bryan, and I made our first trip to Oaxaca and to Mexico City. At the time I had become fascinated with the Mexican “Day of the Dead” celebrations so our trip was timed to see them firsthand. Along with busloads of other tourists, we visited several cemeteries in small Oaxacan towns. The indigenous people tending their ancestor’s graves were so dignified and so gracious, even with so many mostly-American tourists tromping around on a sacred night, that I couldn’t help being taken with these beautiful people and their beliefs. From Oaxaca we traveled to Mexico City, where again I was entranced, but this time by the rich and ancient history. On that first trip to Mexico we visited the National Museum of Anthropology, where I was introduced to the fascinating story of ancient Mesoamerican civilizations (it is still one of my favorite museums in the world); the ancient city of Teotihuacan, which the Aztecs discovered as an abandoned city and then occupied as their own; and the Templo Mayor, the historic center of the Aztec empire, infamous as a place of human sacrifice. I was astounded! Why had I never learned in school about Mexico, this highly developed cradle of Western civilization in our own hemisphere, when so much time had been devoted to the cultures of Egypt, Greece, and elsewhere? When I returned home to Virginia I began reading everything I could find about ancient Mexican civilizations, including the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Aztec, and Maya. This first trip to Mexico opened up a whole new world and was to profoundly influence my future work. I would return there many more times, most recently this past March to study Olmec art and culture.
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