Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of the World as We Know It

Tonight the Maya Long-Count calendar rolls Happy new baktun! Excited by the idea of this ancient calendar rolling over all those zeros like an odometer, and also vaguely amused by the "end of the world" notion that popular culture has absurdly layered over this calendar event, I have stayed up kind of late to crank out an art project that's been brewing in my head for a while.

See, I was reading about the mechanics of vision at my museum job, and found myself very impressed by the complexity of the eye structures of trilobites. When I carved the linoleum block of this critter (very loosely modeled after the genus Dalmanites, but I totally didn't count the body segments so it's not accurate in the slightest), it was originally intended as a statement about vision: the role of vision in the creative process, and the importance of being able to communicate one's vision in order to nudge a project into motion. 
But of course, as I was printing this linoleum block and watching all the internet chitchat about the end of the world, I couldn't help thinking of trilobites in the context of their mass extinction, 250 million years ago. 96% of all marine species were wiped out, and 2/3 of all terrestrial vertebrates went extinct. That would surely qualify as a variant on the end of the world, no?
A note about my printmaking process: I'm not sure if it's some change in the printing ink I've been using, or a factor of the microclimate here in Portland, but my "legitimate" printmaking ink has been taking about 250 million years to dry of late. Nothing so frustrating as a perpetually sticky print! Tonight I experimented with using a paintbrush to apply dilute acrylic paint, and then fairly thick watercolor paint, to my blocks. I am totally digging the resulting effect (as well as the much more reasonable drying speed.)
I've also discovered that the risers of the stairs that lead in and out of our apartment are a great location for tucking small prints to dry. Which, of course, reminds my silly brain of the amazing hieroglypic-decorated stairways at the Maya ruins in Copan, Honduras

And yes, that's a younger incarnation of me, clambering up the side of an ancient temple in a balam-print dress. Has it really been 14 years since I visited Copan Ruinas? Time is a funny thing. In some ways, there's no reason to not call tonight the end of the world...Because really, isn't every single day the end of an era, and the start of a new one?

Happy, everyone. May we all breathe calmly as the new cycle rolls around.

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