Feeling rather listless and irreligious in 2012? In the market for a deity to worship?
Allow me to suggest the Aztec goddess Tlazolteotl, the “goddess of filthy things.”
Her name is derived from the Nahuatl word for garbage, tlazolli, literally “old, dirty, deteriorated, worn-out thing … which was used to connote filfth, garbage, or refuse, all of which subsumed human waste products” (Klein 21). Her moniker “The Eater of Filth.”
Bitumen (also called tar or asphalt) is the byproduct of decomposed organic materials. Could there possibly be a more apt decoration for Tlazolteotl than a paint made of deep, black, decomposed material associated with the burgeoning sexuality of young women? The black around Her mouth is linked with Her role as an “eater of sins,” as the “eater of filth,” but here the sin and filth are transformed into symbols of the dark erotic genesis of life.
As Tlazolteotl-Tlaelquani, She was the Goddess of the black, fertile earth, the rotting earth, the fecund earth that gains its energy from death, and in turn feeds life. Associated with purification, expiation, and regeneration, She turns all garbage, physical and meta-physical, into rich life.
In this image, She is the cycle of death and life, of death feeding life, of life cycling to death. The twinned snakes encapsulate ollin, the movement of life. Tlazolteotl is the provoker and the pardoner, the active female principle in the continual cycle of death and life.
How can you even begin to resist her? She’s like the ancient Aztec honey badger. Tlazolteotl don’t care, she’s just gonna eat your filth and garbage and turn it into fecund new life in the universe through burgeoning adolescent sexuality. My head just exploded. Where’s that tumblr .gif of my head exploding?
Also, I need to obtain this Belgian Tlazolteotl fashion shirt and wear it to bed.
Any death kid worth their death kid stripes loves Joel-Peter Witkin. I certainly did. Or do, I should say. He’s one of those death kid obsessions that stays just as fascinating in your 20s, 30s, and 40s as he was in your teens.
Witkin’s most notorious photographs portraying corpses and body parts were produced mostly in Mexico — where he could get away with such a thing legally — and where he’d worked out a deal with a hospital in Mexico City that let him sort through unclaimed, anonymous corpses and body parts picked up on the streets to use in his artworks. Witkin has a Stuff of Legend-type tale explaining the genesis of this search for beauty in the grotesque, which I reference constantly in my own writing:
It happened on a Sunday when my mother was escorting my twin brother and me down the steps of the tenement where we lived. We were going to church. While walking down the hallway to the entrance of the building, we heard an incredible crash mixed with screaming and cries for help. The accident involved three cars, all with families in them. Somehow, in the confusion, I was no longer holding my mother’s hand. At the place where I stood at the curb, I could see something rolling from one of the overturned cars. It stopped at the curb where I stood. It was the head of a little girl. I bent down to touch the face, to speak to it—but before I could touch it someone carried me away.
As an adult, he would say that his camera was a response to the girl’s decapitated head, rolled to a stop at the feet of his child-self.
Poet Bethany Pope, who I’ve featured on the Order before, sent me a poem she had written for Joel-Peter Witkin (THAT HAS THE PERSONAL APPROVAL OF WITKIN HIMSELF — SWOON). This presents a chance to feature both her and Witkin in glorious tandem.
This is my second essay for Fortnight Journal, an online journal which features the work of “millenial innovators”…. and also me. Giggles.
This essay is about the fear of the lonely death, and I get to drop in Ernest Becker, Mark Rife, Yvette Vickers, kokodokushi– quite a few favorite people and concepts.
CLICK HERE to read the essay. Whatever the artist for Fortnight is being paid it’s not enough because the opening images for these are RAD.
Darren Blackburn (of Darren Blackburn Photography) shot me- like with a camera, not a pistol- a few weekends ago for the January issue of Dark Beauty magazine. This gave me an opportunity to dress up fancy and bust out all of the Victorian death tsotchkes that blanket my apartment. It also gave Darren and I a chance to yell “Daarrrrqquueee Beeyyoouuuttyy” over and over in increasingly weird ways throughout the day.
The photos were mostly shot on film, not digital, so we had no idea as we were shooting if they would come out well or not. I’ve never been shot as anything other than like “wwwoooo! It’s me on vaycay! Me at the crematory!” etc. So this is a new thang.
I will post the article from Dark Beauty as well as soon as I have it in my grubby little hands.
The amazing art of Noah Purifoy as it sinks and rots gently into the desert where it lives.