The Birth of Mayahuel

The Birth of Mayahuel

  • When: Summer 2019
  • Duration: 40 hours
  • Style: Contemporary Aztec
  • Location: Clarion Street, San Francisco, CA 
  • Commissioned by: Clarion Alley Mural Project

The Story of the first Broken Heart Medicine

Site Specificity is what makes Street Art powerful, and what makes murals reflective of their environments and the community involved.  Anything one paints on the street is at the mercy of the forces in a neighborhood, so reflecting that neighborhood and its culture is not only important to the representative aspects of the Mural and its place in Art History it is also a vehicle for pride and the hope that Art can make a difference. I waited 20 years to paint in Clarion Alley, because as much as I admire the spirit of street art, I also value being invited, and the clarity that brings to my participation of one of the longest running street galleries in the Mission. When I was asked to paint this Mural I was not thinking about what I wanted to paint to advertise myself (as so many artists choose to do) but rather what is a story that would connect the history of the people of this neighborhood and the current people who literally live on this street. I noticed that there were many undocumented people and homeless individuals who had made this alley their residence, and among the other substances I’m sure were and are consumed there I kept seeing tequila bottles.  This area of the mission is surrounded by bars and restaurants and a fair amount of drinking seems to be part of the culture on those blocks. My job is not to preach it is to teach, and so I decided to construct a page from a codex that had not to my been constructed before in the style of a famous Aztec book, the codex Borgia.

This mural depicts the Birth of Mayahuel and the epic story of her death and resurrection as the Agave Cactus, with its intoxicant properties when distilled. Once upon and Aztec time in the great darkness 10,000 years ago (Pleistocene era) when the Mighty Sun God  (Tonatiuh) was held captive by the evil Obsidian Butterfly, a demon who was simultaneously Beautiful and hideous and would stun her enemies with this mixed trait before tearing apart their flesh and devouring their heart. She in the darkness had given birth to many stars, such as the 400 brothers (the Milky Way) and a most beautiful child of medicine, Mayahuel.  The people had mourned the loss of the Sun because the crops would not grow and there were large fearsome creatures in the night such as giant Jaguars now overpopulating the central Americas and storms of the God Tlaloc destroying civilization. They begged the wind god, Quetzacoatl to kill the Obsidian Butterfly and rescue the Sun. When Quetzacoatl arrived to perform his mission he was distracted and fell in love with Mayahuel, but their age difference was problematic, so the became two trees that would sway together without touching and hid in that form until her Mother sent her 400 hundred brothers to kill them both. After murdering Mayahuel for disobedience and nearly killing the Mighty Wind God Obsidian butterfly swore to visit destruction were he ever to enter her kingdom again, which he immediately and continually did day after day but when the heartbroken mother saw the tears he was crying for lost love she was compelled to tears and eventually the Agave cactus emerged as the reincarnation of Mayahuel, and people drink the Tequila made from her leaves when their heart is broken, to this day. This multimedia installation was painted and incorporates canvas board and resin in the framing device. Completed upon request by the Clarion Alley Mural Project, in the Summer of 2019. It is a depiction of Quetzacoatl on the right and Obsidian Butterfly on the left, with Mayahuel intervening between them, surrounded by a frame constructed of multiple paintings and prints depicting the days of the calendar, and the Major Gods of the Aztec Pantheon.  It is decipherable to any who study the classic civilizations of central Mexico and is used as a teaching device and sacred space by Danzante groups in the Area. The ground has been painted with a giant spinning flower, and a sprawling land acknowledgement that begins on Valencia and stretches all the way down the block to mission.

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