Consider the artistic pursuit of the ice sculptor, how he or she carves and etches the most elaborate details into their frozen medium only to have it melt a short while later. It makes me wonder how a person can find the inspiration and the motivation to create something so beautiful, to be seen and appreciated by so few in the fleetingly short period of time that it exists. Likewise, the sand castle builder, the live performer and the master Chef have come to accept that being present in the moment is as much a part of their craft as the art itself.
I am aware of the fact that all art is temporary, yet so much of my own personal motivation comes from the desire to create something that will outlive me. I am driven by the notion that somehow, the legacy of my work will make me a little less mortal. I guess that is why I’m drawn to the mediums of writing, photography and painting. The extent to which these things will remain in existence is unknown, just as the architects of the ancient city of Ixemche in Guatemala had no way of knowing that their structures would still be standing some 600 years after their deaths.
Contemporary Guatemala is like a giant museum of fine art and Antigua is one of it’s most impressive exhibits. Art is everywhere in Antigua. Art is in the ornate Spanish and Mayan influenced architecture. Art is in the cobblestone streets and the clay rooftops. Art is in the quiet out of the way courtyards and the public gathering places. Art is in the gentle slopes of the surrounding Volcanos and in the fertile crops that grow on them. Art is in the colorful skin tones of the native people and the fabrics that they wear. I think you get the picture, Antigua is Art.
If there is one week of the year that one would most want to visit Antigua, it would be Holy Week. Semana Santa is the week prior to the celebration of Easter. Needless to say, religion in Guatemala is overwhelmingly Catholic and Semana Santa is revered as the most important week of the year. For us, we were lucky to secure reservations for Wednesday through Saturday. It was fascinating to witness the population expand from around 35000 to over a quarter of a million as people from the surrounding villages and from all over the world squeezed into Antigua to join in the celebration.
I’ll be sharing a bunch of my photos from Antigua during Semana Santa in the next couple of posts, but for the remainder of this post I want to re-visit the idea that Art should not be judged upon how long it lasts. Of all of the images that I left Antigua with, the Alfombras (Carpets) that are laid out on the cobblestone streets are the most indelible. Alfombras are made out of sand, sawdust and pine needles and are adorned with grains and seeds and plants to produce masterpieces that will be walked on and destroyed by the extensive processions that follow. Enjoy!