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Maya Artists and Artisans of Guatemala, A Relief Print Series In Progress

by Marilyn Anderson

Backstrap Weaver

Backstrap Weaver
linocut, 10" x 12 3/4"

Printed by the artist in editions of 150, using an etching press on
natural warm toned archival Edgeworthia paper from Bhutan. This set of ten black and white wood and linoleum cut prints was shown in November, 2004, at the Fondo Del Sol Visual Arts Center, Washington, DC.

The images show artists and artisans pursuing their traditional arts as they have done for millenia, using clay, various fibers, leather, metal and other materials. By the medium of relief cut printing, which requires a combination of artistic and craft skills, the artist hopes that her work echos the Maya spirit of creative self sufficiency and fine workmanship.

Springing from the needs of people every where for the necessary articles which sustain everyday life, the Maya create items ranging from clothing, to ropes and containers of various materials for cooking, carrying and storage. In addition to the practical, other kinds of articles for ceremonial use, decoration, adornment, and recreation augment this list.

But, in recent times, a number of these handmade items, many with thousand-year histories-- have been replaced by local or imported factory production, often made of unecological materials and sold for less than the artesinal items. The underlying economic realities of the situation are complicated, but the knowledge and skills which form the basis of Maya arts constitute a valuable, even irreplaceable heritage that deserves not only respect but support. All of these issues and ideas form the background which inspire the artist to produce this print series. As a group of images it has grown steadily over the past few years, and new prints continue to be in progress.

Since the nineteen sixties and seventies, when she first lived in Guatemala, to the present, Anderson has researched and documented Maya arts and much of her work, has revolved around her deep appreciation of them. She hopes to encourage people everywhere to appreciate their significance through her efforts as an artist-photographer, author and educator.

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