The making of a space program
The Xiuhcoatl Rocket Series has its origins in the Rio Grande Valley around 1997-98, about 20 years ago, before I first arrived in San Antonio, Tejas. It began as a paper mache sister form to a Calavera form that I made a plaster mold of to slip cast in multiples. I proceeded to explore the Calavera Series of ceramic slip cast skulls in various sculpture composition and installations over the next 20 years. The Xiuhcoatl Rocket Series was put on a shelf but was an image that I continued to work around throughout my production in the studio. In the fall of 2017 the time came for me to codify my process into a sculpture class and one of the processes that I teach my sculpture students is mold-making for slip casting. The process that I followed involved an experiment with the making of a guerrilla mold during the summer of 2017. I cast this guerrilla mold at the same time as I cast the second precision mold that I made in the fall during the first days of January 2018.
The Xiuhcoatl Rocket Series is based on the the Aztec pantheon god Xiuhcoatl—a mythological serpent. It was regarded as the spirit form of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Aztec fire deity and Lord of the Year. It is also an atlatl wielded by Huitzilopochtli the war god. Xiuhcoatl is a classical Nahuatl word that literally translates as "turquoise serpent". The arrangement of motifs that are used to make its image also carry the symbolic and descriptive meaning for "fire serpent".
Space programs have a mythical gravitas that is the stuff of dreams. The dreams and belief in an idea bigger than us is the “Aha” moment that inspires humanity to escape the bounds of this “terra firme”. These stories/myths represent what it is to be human and the struggle with the eventual question of “why?”. These myths are woven into our psyche and explain the before, the now and the after. As with the caravelle in the days of colonial exploration navigated the vast oceans the rocket jets through space— an ambiguous projectile. Why? Is it an exploration vessel or is it a munition? Does it represent life or death? Is it coming or going? These are the questions that I intend to inspire through the installations of the Xiuhcoatl Rockets.
The space program metaphor lends itself to spiritual parts of the process where the experiment is a practice in letting go and trusting that what you are doing. Reading your results to adjust your outcome or composition becomes and integral part of the creative process. Coming to terms with the factors that are outside of your control during production windows is one of the biggest hurdles. In this production schedule the first casting was done outside in the winter cold with the pit fire going full on. There were a total of four rockets that I slip cast during the first days of January. This winter break happened to have some of the coldest days of January 2018 and there were technical malfunctions due to weather that had to be overcome. After the pieces dried they were ready for their greenware firing. The first four Xiuhcoatl were loaded into the kiln and fired at the end of February.
Three Xiuhcoatl Rockets survived all the process from slip casting to glaze firing. The final stage is the forthcoming installation in the collaborative exhibit with Kim Bishop titled: OM—The Beginning or The End, at Dock Space in the Lone Star Art District located at 107 Lone Star BLVD. SATX 78204 6pm to 9pm. This is the first wave of production in my venture into the Rocket Manufacturing Industry. There are a number of possibilities on the horizon. Just recently in the Fall of 2017 some of my work was featured in the Mondos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas-UCR ArtsBlock as part of the Getty Foundation, Pacific Standard Time II:Los Angeles/Latin America. I am planning to expand on that. Please follow the link If you wish to purchase the Mundos Alternos Exhibit Catalog.
About the show:
"OM" is the sacred sound signifying the beginning and the end. When used as a mantra it represents the divine energies of nature and the primordial sound of the Universe. It is associated with the three-fold division of time/consciousness(the waking state, dream state and deep sleep state). When used for meditation the pause at the end of the chant is the fourth stage of consciousness—Turiya (the natural state that permeates all other states and the only whole of reality) a superconsciousness. According to David Frawley, "OM" is the sound of the "creator, preserver and the destroyed of the universe." In this exhibit Bishop and Valderas examine our current state of apocalyptic human affairs. "We are asking, is this the beginning or the end? Are we nothing or everything? Are we seeds of creation or the destroyer of worlds? Our insides are like vast oceans of emotion coming in and out like waves. The inhumanity that surrounds us is killing us and our world. Time is passing and repeating itself faster and faster. Our art is our prayer-our meditation to become one with the universe."
Dock Space Gallery Located in the Lone Star Art District 107 Lone Star Blvd,
78204 March 10, 2018 7:00-10:00 pm