Aztec murals and public parks
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
At a small, but popular nine hole disc golf course in San Jose stand two walls that were in need of a big touch up. My uncle is a park ranger for this course and opened up the opportunity for me to improve the park through art. These two walls were painted by a community group in the 1980’s and symbolize the local Aztec culture. Working with the park, this was the one request – to keep the underlying Aztec message while adding a big shot of color. Out of the two walls, I had more of a chance to preserve most of one wall over another. I started with this wall – the “Jaguar Warrior” as I labeled it.
In working on this project, I must admit I knew nothing about Aztec culture. I only know a little about Mayan culture, and this is from our most recent visit to Tulum, where Mayans lived and thrived. In researching information for this project, I took the existing Jaguar painted on the wall and found out the Jaguar Warrior – or Ocelotl – is a young, Aztec man that was trained to become a military soldier. The soldiers wore these jaguar costumes because they believed it would improve their strength. Reading about Aztec culture, war, fighting, and even sacrifice were all big themes.
For the second wall, I wanted to introduce a feminine goddess. My friend from Mexico suggested Coatlicue – the Mother of Gods – who gave birth to the sun, the moon, and Aztec gods. In traditional Aztec art, she is represented as a very large woman with two fanged serpents for a head, a necklace of human hearts and hands, large sagging breasts from all of her birth, and a skirt of serpents. She is the symbol of Earth as both the creator and destroyer – that which we are born to and that which we return to. I decided to portray her in a much softer, more feminine form through giving hands and a large, beating anatomical heart. The energy flows from her to the sun and the moon, around her and through her.
Both of these walls allowed me to continue my process of painting large with acrylic paints. I started with the existing architecture of both walls for the layout and infused both with lots of linework and pattern reminiscent of what I found in the Aztec calendar. I explored several Aztec themes, gods, goddesses, and culture – working this research through different sketch iterations and ideas. I am happy with how vibrant and colorful both walls are and its been so pleasant getting feedback from the community. I hope these walls continue to spark more art in our parks and to interest more people to spend time outdoors in nature! I am also inspired to continue working with gods, goddesses, and other cultural deities – spreading their existence, what they stand for, and what they represent! I feel our modern society has lost touch with ceremony and culture and big art seems like a great way to bring it back in!