aztec-style mosaic in the lobby at Xpu-Ha
GardenSnake: A piece of the bigger picture / In San Francisco, mosaic artistshave retrieved a playground, bit by bit, from urban blight.
Javier Martinez, 8, runs over the back of the snake. Chronicle photo by Eric Luse
“One Sunday last month, costumed dancers unveiled the revitalized park
opposite the Brava Theater. The garden was an artful set designed for play, but
it contained a secret: a stunning concrete and mosaic Quetzalcoatl, the mythic
feathered sea serpent of the Aztecs.
It took center stage before excited children, parents and even Mayor Gavin
Newsom (escorted by mounted police). The snake, dipping in and out of the
rubberized paving that surrounds it, nimbly skirts slender jets of water that
spout, erratically, straight up from the ground like Old Faithful. Its
easy-to-climb, 10-foot-long head is studded with mirrors, flower-shaped tiles,
and bits of glass and porcelain carefully set in place by volunteers assisting
husband-and-wife designers Mark Roller and Colette Crutcher.”
Nolan Willis took this photo in London
The skull of the Smoking Mirror
This mask is believed to represent the god Tezcatlipoca, one of the Aztec creator gods. He was also the god of rulers, warriors and sorcerers. His name can be translated as ‘Smoking Mirror’. In fact, in many depictions during the Postclassic period (A.D. 900/1000-1521) his foot is replaced by a mirror.
The base for this mask is a human skull. Alternate bands of turquoise and lignite mosaic work cover the front of the skull. The eyes are made of two discs of iron pyrites set in rings made of shell. The back of the skull has been cut away and lined with leather. The jaw is movable and hinged on the leather.
Turquoise was sent as tribute to the Aztec capital from several provinces of the empire. Some of those provinces were located in present-day Veracruz, Guerrero and Oaxaca. The turquoise was sent as raw chunks or as cut and polished mosaic tiles decorating a variety of objects, such as masks, shields, staffs, discs, knives and bracelets. We know from a tribute list issued by the emperor Motecuhzoma II that ten turquoise mosaic masks, made by skilled Mixtec artisans, were sent each year from a province in Oaxaca.
A wonderful HDR photo of a multimedia mosaic mural by artist Colette Crutcher. Located in San Francisco.
Who is Tonantsin? Wikipedia tells us:
In modern Mexico, the most important religious building (Basilica of Guadalupe) is built where the Tonantzin pyramid once stood. Some anthropologists believe that “Our Lady of Guadalupe” is a “Christianized” Tonantzin.
In literature, Tonantzin is the tragic heroine in Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez, who makes a living from selling deep fried babosas (giant slugs) in her Central American village. She is cited as being named after the goddess.