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Treasures of the Otomi Pueblo

by Glen Rogers

As an artist, I usually follow my own direction, but when I was invited to create a painting featuring Otomi women, I felt it was an opportunity I couldn't resist. You see, I've recently returned to depicting the figure in my artwork after a 25-year hiatus. For these many years, I have involved myself with a way of working that I call Symbolic Abstraction - art inspired by archetypes from nature and sacred sites around the world. It was at an artist residency in Morocco in 2018 when the figure emerged in my art again, albeit draped and shrouded. So when I was asked by Mexico City curator, Maximiliano Grego to represent Otomi women and their tradition of stamping their tortillas for a group exhibition, Poeticas del Arte Contemporaneo, I was pleased to participate. Each artist was given a theme. Because the show was to be in Dolores Hidalgo, he wanted the indigenous tribe of the Otomi to be represented. Combining the figure and the circular symbol, a tortilla stamp, seemed like a perfect fit for me. I just happened to have a double-sided Otomi tortilla stamp hanging on my studio wall which I was able to incorporate into the piece.

As I was making a preliminary charcoal drawing for the painting, I held an image in my mind's eye of a woman at the hearth. It's an ancient universal vision that transcends local culture and is found in every corner of the world. Women cooking at the heart of the home or working over a communal fire is a traditional theme. She, as giver of life, provides strength and cohesiveness to the family and the community in many ways. In Los Tesoros del Pueblo, her arms encircle an offering of sustenance and healing. In Mexico, tortillas, central to each meal, remain a treasure of the culture.

I was told that in ancient times, the Otomi were a matrilineal culture and they worshiped the moon as the highest deity. Mother Earth was also celebrated for the bounty of her harvest. As in many cultures, it's the women who keep the stories, the traditions and the symbols alive. The tortilla, a small round shape, patted out by hand, is itself an archetype – the circle, a symbol of wholeness and universality.

The Otomi women embellish their tortillas with designs using sacred imagery. Each family has its own seal carved out of wood from the mesquite tree and the dark purple dye from the muicle plant is used to stamp the images. These circular woodcut designs are passed down from generation to generation and used to print the tortillas for special celebrations and fiestas. It is a testament to the Otomi women that this ritual remains alive to honor the ancestors and preserve ancient traditions.

My painting, Los Tesoros del Pueblo (Treasures of the Pueblo), continues my tradition of honoring women and the divine feminine from cultures around the world. In this artwork, I am also paying homage to various Mexican masters such as Diego Rivera and Rodolfo Morales and their representation of the figure.

Poeticas del Arte Contemporaneo is showing through August 6 at the Bicentenario Museo in Dolores Hidalgo.

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Glen Rogers is an internationally exhibited artist whose work includes paintings, prints and public sculpture. Her work is inspired by visits to sacred sites around the world and the artifacts left behind by these ancient cultures, chronicled by her book, Art & Sacred Sites: Connecting with Spirit of Place. She offers monotype workshops from her studios in San Miguel de Allende and Mazatlán and offers Art Vacations to Peru and other exotic locales. Visit her website: www.glenrogersart.com and her blog, artandsacredsites.com, an artist’s journey of travel, sacred sites, and creating art.

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