Somos Hijos de Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin – Los Manteles de mi Abuela

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This exhibition, “Somos Hijos de Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin – Los Manteles de mi Abuela,” is a petition to the Government of Vienna, Austria, to repatriate Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin’s Penacho as well as a public awareness of looted artifacts worldwide. Our current Mexican president, Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador, has made several requests for an exhibition loan, but his requests have been denied. This particular headdress came to interest me while researching Mesoamerican pottery and feather work, which was integrated into capes, garments, headdresses, and vestiges.

The Penacho is a beautifully handcrafted feather headdress with four different kinds of bird feathers, gold, and sequences illuminating a status of godliness and divinity. The half-moon contour and profile facade of a human creates a presence that changes the physical human body as powerfully as the Mescalero Clown native dancers of our region transform with their vibrant headdresses into ethereal messengers on earth.

Sahumadores are tripod vessels from Mesoamerica, made out of clay and designed to allow for stability on uneven surfaces. The vessels were often decorated with intricate designs and symbols that held cultural and religious significance. Some vessels were used for specific rituals, such as chocolate consumption or incense burning, while others were for everyday use. The production of these vessels was a highly skilled craft and was often passed down through generations within families or specialized workshops. The use of ceramics in Mesoamerica dates back to pre-Columbian times and continues to be an important part of contemporary cultural heritage. This tripod pottery vessel has been a recurring icon in my artwork and prompted my investigations.

Researching Sahumadores has brought recurring images resulting in a series of paintings that explore a new surface to paint on. “Los manteles de mi Abuela” was inspired by my grandmother’s kitchen as I recalled ‘gaudy-esque’ flowered tablecloths while eating lunch at her house. In noticing the patterns and their attraction, a deep nostalgia for the colorful tablecloths proved to be an inspiration for this series. I asked her if she would be willing to give me the tablecloth. She asked, “What will you do with it when I give it to you?” I said, “Well, I’m going to use it like a canvas to make a painting.” She said, “Hijo de Montezuma!” She thought I was out of my mind. Later, after the meal, she said, “I’ll let you have the tablecloth if you replace it with a new one.”

In developing the painting, I connected the Sahumadores to be a plea, a healing vessel, a summons to solicit and beseech the government of Vienna, Austria, for the return of Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin’s Penacho to its native home, Mexico. After all, as my Abuela declared and at once anointed me, “Hijo de Montezuma,” who better than I to gather and invite all other Hijos y Hijas to light the Sahumadores?

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