“Spirit Guides” at the Denver Botanic Gardens

I recently had the opportunity to see the “Spirit Guides” exhibition at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Scattered amongst the plants were a series of 8 sculptures — imaginary hybrid animals inspired by the Zapotec calendar — made by Jacobo and María Ángeles of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Armadillo-Insect sculpture

Armadillo-Insect by Jacobo and María Ángeles

This colorful fellow is poised to greet you, right as you enter the gardens. As you can see, he’s a tall one.

These hybrid creatures combine two kinds of spirit animals from Zapotec legend — one represents a protective animal, the other is a spirit animal with personality traits similar to yours. Continue reading


If you’re about ready for a little break from all things Maya, here’s a shot from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science — it’s of a miniature carving (roughly 10″ tall) by Vasily Konovalenko titled “Painter:”


If you’re wondering why miniature sculpture is in a natural history museum, it’s because Konovalenko’s carvings are entirely made from gemstones. Here’s this little guy’s bill of materials from the placard:

Shoes: black jasper

Pants: jasper

Shirt: lapis

Apron: white jasper

Hat: jasper

Face & Hands: jasper

Eyes: sapphire

Floor: agate

Bucket: petrified wood, cacholong

Brush: agate, amethyst quartz

Great Expectations

One of the best parts of living in Colorado is that we can get up to some… interesting… mountain events over the course of the year. This was a Canadian entry at the 2012 Breckenridge snow sculpture contest:

Great Expectations

I’m always amazed at just how much detail the sculptors can coax out of packed snow (OK, in this case with a bit of help from some icicles).

Great Expectations details 1

And of course, you have to look carefully to spot all the goodies they’ve packed into their work.

Great Expectations details 2


A bit of ancient royal propaganda on the north face of the Palace at the ruins of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico:


This stucco is a bit tricky to get a good image of — you can’t get near it (for its own sake), and other parts of the structure it’s on block your view from ground level. So you need to work from a distance with a long lens.

I used Topaz Adjust to bring out the colors and structure a bit in this shot.

Angels in the Stucco

Stucco decorations on the face of the Acropolis at the Maya ruins of Ek’ Balam:

Angels in the Stucco

This stucco is in fantastic shape for its age — in no small part thanks to the fact that it was buried inside the Acropolis pyramid not long after it was built. It’s a tricky photographic subject thanks to the protective thatched roof overhead (the light’s even, but low, all day long), but it’s worth it to preserve this amazing work.

Kinichná in Becán

The old Maya ruins of Becán in México have quite a few things to recommend them. A number of structures have been restored, and are open to public viewing; several structures are both climbable and riddled with passageways (so many places to explore).

But really, the marquis attraction is this stucco figure of the Maya sun god Kinichná:

Kinichná in Becán

Since the stucco needs to be protected from the hot and humid environment (as well as from vandals), it’s in a purpose-built enclosure with a glass front. But the lighting’s tricky (no artificial light in the enclosure), and the glass is both dirty and scratched (take wet wipes and a paper towel) — so you have to work to get a decent shot of this bit of artwork…