We are big fans of the Tucson Museum of Art and have seen just about every new TMA exhibit since moving here a decade ago. For that reason, we took notice when a recent email newsletter announced that the Art Museum will open its new Palice Gallery of Latin American Art Sunday May 5th from noon to 5 PM. Admission: FREE!
What used to be admin offices on the 2nd floor will now house TMA’s collection of Pre-Columbian art, Spanish Colonial & Post Colonial art, and Latin American folk art.
The collection will offer enhanced, bilingual didactic materials. Ms. Karen has a degree in Art History, so she’s more familiar with art objects like these. But I particularly appreciate the interpretive material that TMA coordinates with each piece so I can better understand the cultural significance and historical periods from which they were created. Moreover, when we visit a new TMA exhibit, we usually take advantage of the Musuem’s free tours guided by their knowledgeable docents. That way we get a great deal more out of each exhibit than we otherwise would.
Here are 3 examples.
El Tajin Style Stela Fragment, from Orizaba Region of Veracruz, Mexico, Late Formative/Early Classic Era, 100 BCE-250 CE, Serpentine.
This thin Stela with low relief carving depicts a male figure in profile, holding a tasseled object, probably a spear or standard. The border beneath the figure includes a snub-nosed mask, and curvilinear step-fret designs. This motif most likely represents a ruler performing a ritual activity.
The style of the Stela is transitional from the aesthetic of Olmec iconography to the later Maya iconography that dominated the region. This artwork is characteristic of the aesthetic that characterizes El Tajin monuments. Similar low relief carvings depicting rulers and incorporating the diagnostic curvilinear step fret design are found in sites such as Cholula, Puebla, a testament to the extent of socio cultural power exerted by elites in the Gulf region during this time period.
From the Spanish Colonial/Post-Colonial Collection.
Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, ca.17th century, wood, paint, gilding, copper, and lace.
This statue depicts the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, as indicated by the crescent moon upon which the Virgin is standing. Recently restored by a professional conservator, with funding provided by a special grant from Institute of Museums and Library Services, the sculpture is a highlight of TMA’s Spanish Colonial/Post-Colonial collection. Most likely of 17th century origin, it has clearly been painted multiple times. The intention of the over painting seems to have been to change the message conveyed by the statue. Overtime, the elaborate gilt design on the Virgin’s robes was covered with simple blue paint, the complexion of the figure was changed, and, in general, the statue was made to appear less elaborate.
The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception statue provides an interesting insight into how the Catholic Church modified its iconographic message to be more palatable to Mestizo peoples in the New World by depicting the Virgin Mary less as a regal queen and more as a common woman.
From the Latin American Folk Art Collection.
Tree of Life, Aurelio Flores, 1960, ceramic.
This tree of life is a great example of the work in the Latin American Folk Art collection. This elaborate candelabrum, produced in Puebla, was created by Aurelio Flores, a well-known folk artist. The lively tree is bursting with polychrome birds and flowers in a style that is characteristic of the Flores family. This tree of life depicts the vibrancy of Mexican Folk Art and the degree to which individual creativity, tradition, and regional specialization in folk art production are comingled in the production of these vibrant objects.
Southern Arizona has many fine museums. You can find our favorites at SouthernArizonaGuide.com > Main Menu > Museums.