4th Floor, Rosenberg Library, City College of San Francisco
September 27-February 8, 2013
Beautiful Lake Atitlán is far from any city, in the western mountains of Guatemala. There are volcanoes all around the lake, and a dozen small Tz’utuhil Maya villages. In 1929, coffee plantation worker Rafaél González y González made his own paints by mixing the dyes used by the weavers with sap from a tree. He began to paint images that reflect traditional Maya life. Some of his sons and grandsons also became artists, and their paintings show us a rich indigenous culture that has survived 500 years of brutal oppression. The painters are mostly self-taught. Younger painters watch more experienced artists in order to learn from them. There are few women artists, and they have learned from their husbands, uncles, or other male family members. Today the grandsons of Rafaél González y González carry on the tradition that he established in the 1920s.
Early Risers/Madrugadores by Pedro Rafaél González Chavajay , Oil on canvas – 15” x 13” 2009
This exhibition was co-curated Rita E. Moran, Director of Maya Woman: The Helen Moran Collection and by members of the CCSF Library staff. Doña Ana Marina Luna, a Spanish teacher in Antigua, Guatemala, contributed cultural background and edited the Spanish translation. The Helen Moran Collection was made possible by the work of Joseph Johnston, curator of Arte Maya Tz’utuhil, who has worked with indigenous artists for 25 years. By creating a marketplace for their work, he has enabled many of subsistence farmers in a remote area of the world to spend some of their time creating art. In so doing he has made their unique vision accessible to an international audience.
The collection was established in honor of Helen Moran, who told her ten Irish-American children, “Never forget where you came from!” The valiant resistance of indigenous Maya women and men runs parallel to the struggle of the Irish peasants, who likewise fought their oppression for centuries.
You can see the entire Maya Woman collection online at MayaWomenInArt.org.
Indigenous Maya artworks for sale, plus archives and historical background, are available at ArteMaya.com.
Download the Assignment for Mujeres Mayas and a list of books on Maya Culture and related subjects in the CCSF Library.