Art Projects- Symmetrical Zapotec Shadow Puppets

by - Saturday, November 02, 2013

For the week of Halloween, I tried to find some objects in the Cantor Arts Center that had a scary or intimidating factor. I settled on a funerary urn of Cocijo, who is the Zapotec god of Thunder and lightening. This god was incredibly important in Zapotec culture because he controlled the weather (and therefore the crops) as well as light and dark. Here are some urns with Cocijo on them:

from mexemperorramsesii.deviantart.com 
from sortingoutscience.net

Beyond the fact that this guy is just exceptionally cool looking, I wanted my visitors to notice two key things:
1. The incredible details and rendering of the face- There is positive and negative space working to make these funerary statues so interesting.
2. Symmetry! These statues are always nearly perfectly symmetrical.

So in honor of Cocijo's reign over all things light and dark, my visitors tried to make perfectly symmetrical silhouettes, which they would then use as shadow puppets. They cut subtractive shapes away from their puppet, and then added details (I was pushing headresses, but we saw a lot of ears) to make as much detail as they could on their puppet. This was my demo puppet:



I thought that they could be more or less spooky, and I underestimated how much they resonated with jack o'lanterns, so all in all they worked for a Halloween lesson. Here are some pictures of the family's projects (I couldn't include anything that shows faces, so you are missing some truly cute ones):



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