Monday, December 08, 2008

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #4

Olmec Figure Sitting, with Spread Legs, Olmec Civilization, 2000-900 B.C., Low-fire earthenware, 9 1/2 x 8 3/8 x 5 in. (Pre-Hispanic Art)

This small sculpture has a mystery about its function, perhaps it had a special ritual use. The Olmecs made megalithic heads that are compelling and powerful. But this seated figure is also typical of their sculpture. The figure is soft and natural - almost boneless - and is genderless. The body is compact and sturdy looking and the face expressive and detailed. Made of earthenware, it was created using an additive sculpture technique then fired to make it hard. Because clay can crack if it dries out too quickly, the artist made small perforations in the eyes, nostrils and navel that provided air vents during the firing process. This hollow figure is somewhat rare in relation to the figures sculpted from stone.

Check out the "Seated Ruler in Ritual Pose" that the Dallas Museum of Art has in their collection. Compare the two: do the postures and materials communicate different ideas? How do simple marks create expression? Consider this statement from the Museum's info about this piece: "As one of several objects deposited in a burial cache, a greenstone figure such as this may have signified the renewal of life, especially when it was coated with cinnabar, a mineral whose red color represented the life force of blood." Do you agree with this thinking? We may never know all of the answers - even the scholars can only theorize about some of these ideas. All the more reason to do your own surmizing!! Click on the Post title to visit a site about the Olmec culture - it's packed with information!

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