Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Final Days of The Jaguar's Spots at the Lowe Art Museum

Features important Mesoamerican pieces from the permanent collection

The Lowe Art Museum has been collecting pre-Columbian art since 1956, and this comprehensive exhibition includes a selection of 175 objects from the permanent collection, many of which have never been displayed before. The exhibition covers ancient cultures from Mexico through Panama and Costa Rica, with pieces from the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec areas spanning a period of over 2000 years. A very fine and rare codex style Maya vase with text and mythological imagery was acquired especially for this exhibition and will be a featured piece in the show and accompanying catalog.

Maya (Guatemala) Bowl, 600-900
The jaguar, panthera onca, is the third largest cat in the world and the most powerful predator of the New World tropics. During the time when the art in this exhibition was produced, jaguars roamed from the southwestern United States through Mexico and Central America and deep into South America. Today jaguars remain an endangered, poorly understood and understudied large cat, but the ancient peoples who lived in Mexico and Central America prior to European contact had great respect for jaguars and were very familiar with its habits. Indigenous people from southern Mexico all the way to Panama chose to portray the jaguar in their artistic creations and Olmec and Maya art are both known for their striking images of this fierce and beautiful creature. One of the themes explored in this exhibition is the interconnection between the ancient peoples of Central America and the natural world in which they lived - a largely tropical world of rainforests and mountains, rich in animal life and embraced by the sea. Objects for the exhibition span a period of more than 2000 years, from the earliest signs of social complexity in the Olmec area to the height of cosmopolitan urbanism in the Aztec capital. Throughout this massive span of time, the powerful creatures of the natural world remained a primary metaphor for artistic expression and the communication of social values.

Maya (Guatemala)
Cylinder Vessel, 650-900
The admiration for jaguars shown in the art of the ancient indigenous peoples of Central America was most likely not inspired by fear based on actual attacks, but rather on a mutual respect that scientists think characterizes the normal interactions of humans and jaguars throughout the region. Respect, and even awe, for the jaguar was also communicated through the various myths and stories of ancient Mesoamerica in which deities assume jaguar characteristics. One lesson  of the diverse and beautiful art displayed in The Jaguar's Spots is that humans have long looked to powerful animals for lessons and inspiration - a quest that requires mutual respect and accommodation in order to yield answers.

Thursday, October 7, 7-9pm, LoweDown Happy Hour
Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month! The Lowe is featuring its spectacular Mesoamerican collection with a tour of the exhibition The Jaguar's Spots by Curator Dr. Traci Ardren. Guests can enjoy light Mexican fare, Mariachi, and register for a raffle of The Jaguar's Spots catalog. Cocktails generously provided by Bacardi and other beverages courtesy of Vitamin Water Zero and Honest Tea. $10 Admission; Free for Lowe Members

Wednesday, October 13, 7:30 pm
Tribal Arts Society Lecture: The Symbolic Representation of Warfare in Middle Formative Olmec-Style Art, Presented by F. Kent Reilly III, Ph.D, Professor, Director of the Center for the Arts and Symbolism of Ancient America, TSU 

Thursday, October 28, 2010
Closing Reception for The Jaguar's Spots
Lecture: 7 PM at at the Lowe Art Museum
Exploring the Universe of the Classic Maya: Lords of the Earth and the Underworld, Presented by Dr. Gabrielle Vail, Sponsored by Sergio Garcia-Granados.

Reception: 8 - 9 PM at the Lowe Art Museum
Cocktails by Ron Zacapa Rum and hors d'oeuvres will be served 
Lowe members and UM Students free; non-members $10

Saturday, October 30, 2010, 9 AM 
Adult Workshop: Maya Hieroglyphic Class
For non-educators: workshop from 9 AM-noon; For Public School Teachers who wish to obtain TEC credits: workshop is from 9 AM-4PM (after lunch we will work on classroom connections and hands-on activities) 

Deciphering the Deities: An Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphic Texts and Imagery, Presented by Dr. Gabrielle Vail; Lowe members $30; non-members $50 (Breakfast will be provided, but lunch is on your own.) Advance registration is required. Please contact Jodi Sypher: 305-284-3621 or jsypher@miami.edu

The Exhibition Curator, Dr. Traci Ardren (Ph.D, Yale University), is a University of Miami Associate Professor of Anthropology. Dr. Ardren is an anthropological archaeologist interested in New World prehistoric cultures and the myriad ways the ancient past is interpreted. Her research focuses on gender, iconography, architecture, and other forms of symbolic representation in the archaeological record. Along with her curatorial work, Dr. Ardren has directed numerous excavations throughout North and Central America. Her recent publications include Ancient Maya Women (AltaMira Press 2002), and The Social Experience of Childhood in Ancient Mesoamerica (University Press of Colorado 2006). 

The catalog for Jaguar's Spots will have eight scholarly essays, color photographs of all 175 pieces, and will be approximately 180 pages. The essays address important pieces in the show including Maya hieroglyphic texts.   

Photos courtesy of The Lowe Art Museum. 

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