Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coatlicue Goddess of Snakes

This monstrous, snake-covered Goddess was a commission from a frequent visitor to the "Science Fantasy Bookstore" in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I also hung out. He wanted someone to depict the Aztec snake goddess Coatlicue, who appears in the book "Deathworld" by Harry Harrison. Since I had never heard of this figure nor read the Harrison book, the commissioner pointed me to the original Aztec carving of the goddess, which you can see on the Wikipedia page. I depicted the statue as if it were real and living, and added the detail of the huge foot coming out of the frame as if it were walking. Coatlicue (pronounced "co-at-li-quae") has a head made from two huge snake heads, and a belt made from a living snake. She holds two snakes at her sides, and wears a snaky skirt, along with a necklace made from severed hands and hearts, and a pendant made from a skull.

Looking back on this painting, I notice the density of detail and the proliferation of macabre themes. In this I seem to have anticipated a major trend in current fantasy art, in which the artist packs as many morbid details as possible into his painting of a godlike figure or decorative design. The figures are swamped in detail, which is so out of hand as to look psychedelic. The more the better! This type of graphic also made it onto a lot of men's and boys' T-shirts in the last decade. Another factor which I didn't put into the Coatlicue picture was the use of traditional Catholic motifs like crosses, vestments, crowns, flaming hearts, and angel wings. You can see many examples of this excessive but highly popular style on the "Dominance War" website, where it seems to have been the winning factor. (Check out the "God of Judgement" for what I mean.)

Now I am hardly claiming that I knowingly anticipated a trend, let alone participated in it. I am just re-visiting a very early painting of mine and thinking how I would adapt Coatlicue to the Dominance War style, which I would love to do someday. But I notice that what I call the "Gothic-chaotic" style in t-shirt and skateboard graphics seems to have faded, so I will wait for another trend to follow.

"Coatlicue" is ink, watercolor and acrylic on Fabriano paper, about 5" x 9", spring 1977. I traded it to my client for a Theosophical book on nature spirits, which I still have.

1 comment:

Tristan Alexander said...

This is amazing! Very diffrent than anything I have seen from you before. I love all the detail! This would make a great Tshirt! A great print as well (I bet I could sell large banners of this!)