Tonalpouhalli: The Count of Fate

Twenty is a magical number in Mexico, as is 7, 13 and 52. They relate to the calendar concepts in ancient mythology. I have called the twenty diptychs in this body-of-work, The Count of Fate: Tonalpouhalli. Tonalpouhalli is a numerical concept in Mexican mythology. As is often the case I work in series. I adopted the Count of Fate as the Aztecs adopted it in their calendrial sequences. Tonalpouhalli contains 265 days, not 365 as in the agricultural calendar. It is unknown why. It seems that the 365 and 260 days fit into the 52-year period, which the Aztecs used in all their long counts of time.

Historically, twenty was important to many Central Americans. This is the number of fingers and toes on a human bring, and in the Indian language the number “twenty” is descriptive of a person, a complete person.

I first showed the Count of Fate at my solo exhibition at the Diego Rivera Museum in 1997-98. This exhibition was called “With Your Permission: Gods, Land & People of Mexico”.It included over 70 paintings selected from my work done during a 10-year residency in Mexico.

The Count of Fate series is however, distinctively a separate body-of-work, although shown as part of the exhibition at the Diego Rivera Museum in Guanajuato, Mexico.

The show displays two framed groupings of the Count of Fate series, 10 diptychs in each framed piece. The size of each image is 3”x 4”; matted the size of each diptych is 5 ½” X 7 ½”. On the left side is a head image and the right is a land scene. Slides of the images are projected on a wall in the viewing area. Images are shown sequentially, 1-20, then reversed 20-1, and this continues for the full 80 slides in the carousel. The projector is seated on the top of a pyramid. In Mexico pyramids are flat on top: This is where the temple was. The pyramid is constructed out of plywood: it folds for shipping purposes. It is coated with a stone like spray paint; the stone paint resembles a Mexican pyramid. Electric cords are inside. It is not necessary to start the slide show at the beginning. The images project very well, and enlarged they create a presence in the darkened room.

The framed 20 diptychs show the original intent of the artist. Private Collection