52 A Magical Number

The ancient Mexican calendar, early evidence for which was found on Zapotec monuments, reached its zenith with the Maya. The 52-year cycle, created by the intermeshing of the 260-day calendar and the 365-day calendar is shown as a series of interlocking wheels and follows standard Maya notation.

The images in my series “52 A Magical Number” do not attempt to relate specifically to the calendar sequences as such. Rather, the 52 small works on paper, image size 5 ½ X 3 ½ inches, all vertical, derive from the work I originally made for the series Tonalpouhalli: ‘The Count of Fate’, which was how 20 is a magical number, as well. In “The Count of Fate” series I follow the idea of a head image and a land image. “52 A Magical Number” also has a head image and a land image, shown as a diptych. In the “52 A Magical Number” series I use chapapote (tar) and oil pastels as the medium. The series was completed in Mexico in 2000. As I have mentioned, I have been experimenting with the use of chapapote in the Sal-Zar Medium™. It has enabled me to apply a uniform brown color to the 52 A series. This gives all the images one dominant color and allows the accent to be a colored line. The series “52 A Magical Number” is in a private collection.

This combination of head and land attempts to uncover the mystery of the ancient civilizations of Mexico.  In his book The Gods of Mexico, C.A. Burland writes, “In considering the ritual of ancient Mexican religion we must remember that it is not us, not our way of thought that is acting, but another people in a faraway place, with minds strikingly akin to our own, with many of the problems which we face in out life, but with a totally different cultural background and a much simpler attitude towards nature. They were people who accepted the world rather than controlled it.”

But just think about it! The Mayas fixed the true passage of the earth about the sun at 365.2420 days, which is only two ten-thousandths of a day short of modern calculations (365.2422). Our Gregorian calendar fixes the year at 365.2425 days, or three ten-thousandths of a day too long. (Source: Mexican and Central American Mythology by Irene Nicholson)