My current body of work reconnects everyday life to the sacred as an act of nonviolent, socio-political resistance. My area of research involves discovery and release of feminine traumas and spiritual moments inspired by a healing sisterhood of indigenous ceremonies and practices, and ancient symbols.
I am Xicana, an indigenous identified woman of Otomí, Taíno and Spanish ancestry, born and raised in East Los Angeles. At 18, my life was altered by tragedy, and I have since been a rape survivor. My wounded spirit embraced art making and entered my first Native American inipi- beginning a life journey of healing through these ancient sacred spiritual disciplines. I formally pursue my work, bringing my body into the picture,1 to visually translate, document and reinterpret the history of my ancestors through a personal, contemporary context. The bell shape symbol in my work, represents the female womb or inipi and is a stylized version of a simplistic yet complex, Mesoamerican glyph called tepetl (sacred place or community).2 Employing these symbols, I recall the sacred essence within the female and inipi, a ceremonial interpretation of mother earth womb. Visually these symbols speak of the need for community healing ceremonies and practices.
Ancient Mixtec glyphs from the picture book of Zouche-Nuttall.
When I compared the tepetl symbol to the basic skeletal structure of the inipi, I was inspired by similarities in shape and historical function with respect to spiritual community. After 1615, the tepetl symbol almost disappears entirely from maps and there is reason to believe that missionaries censored the glyph to assist in the spiritual conquest of Mesoamerica.2
Traditional inipi's are not usually done nude. A towel and a modest dress for women or a pair of shorts for men is more appropriate for a traditional sweat and my personal experiences with the sweat lodges have been traditional. Since flesh and blood is all that we truly "own," the "lodge" figures in my work are nude to represent the purity and vulnerability of spirit in humble conversation with the great mystery.
One Story about the origins of lodge:
1. Leimer, Ann Marie. (May 2005), Performing the Sacred: The Concept of Journey in Codex
Delila. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin, Austin
2. Aguilar-Moreno, Manuel, (2006), Handbook to Life in the Aztec World. Facts on File, Inc., NY.