I’m a wimp when it comes to horror, yet I’ve always been drawn to images of Xipe Totec, a pre-Columbian figure portrayed wearing the flayed skin of a sacrificial victim – a poor victim who, as if having his skin flayed wasn’t enough, also had his heart cut out – evidenced by a stitched-up wound in the chest. (He was given plenty of pulque, a type of undistilled tequila, before getting started.)
The flayed skin still has the victim’s hands and sometimes his feet dangling loosely from it. As macabre as this sounds, warfare was conceptually linked to agricultural fertility and Xipe Totec was the god of renewal and new vegetation. He was associated with the Aztec goddess of maize, Chicomecoatl, and was widely worshipped in central Mexico at the time of the Conquest, but was known throughout most of Mesoamerica. Representations of him have been found all to way to the Yucatan Peninsula and along the Gulf Coast. (FYI – though human sacrifice was very real before the Conquest, the scale of them is disputed since both Spaniard and Native sources alike were prone to exaggeration.)
The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Garden’s exhibit Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the war and includes vintage posters created to shape and influence national identity, many of which revolve around food. They are eerie and utterly fascinating. The exhibit will be on display though November 3rd. If you’re in Los Angeles, don’t miss it!
When the United States entered the war in April 1917, the war already three years in and food was desperately needed to supply America’s European allies. American civilians were urged to conserve food by increasing production, cutting waste and consuming foods that were plentifully available. Home cooks began substituting corn, oats or barley for wheat, molasses for sugar, and vegetable shortening for butter or lard. Peanut butter emerged as a protein substitute for meat. Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays were encouraged and many Americans had their first vegetarian meal.
President Woodrow Wilson placed food, fuel, iron and steel under government control as war material and, as head of the United States Food Administration, Herbert Hoover sponsored an educational campaign that encouraged American farmers with the slogan, “Food can win the war.” Pamphlets, posters and advertisements were produced to teach the rules of substitution and to convince Americans that eating less might improve their health. Canning, drying and preserving foods were skills treated as patriotic duties.
It is rare that I get to develop a class around contemporary art and the opportunity to teach from ESMoA’s latest Experience, SCRATCH, is quite a treat. The show combines 16th through 18th century manuscripts from the Getty Research Institute’s (GRI) collection of rare books with art from some of LA’s finest graffiti and tattoo artists. Yes, street art on museum walls is as cool as it sounds, but combining it with Renaissance manuscripts is groundbreaking.
Serving as inspiration for the show is a Liber Amicorum or “Book of Friends”. Comparable to a high school yearbook or the posts on someone’s Facebook wall, the book is one of a series of popular books originally bound with blank leaves and filled with drawings and watercolors by friends. The Liber Amicorum in SCRATCH was owned by Nuremberg merchant Johann Heinrich Gruber, was compiled between 1602 and 1612 and is filled with illustrations by his highfalutin friends. To art collector Ed Sweeney and GRI rare books curator David Brafman, the book resembled the sketchbooks graffiti artists have their friends tag — black books with blank pages that serve as an exchange of memories and ideas.