CULTURES IN COLOR:
ANCIENT MESOAMERICAN WORLDS OF PIGMENTS AND HUES
January 11-15, 2022
Organizers: David Stuart, Astrid Runggaldier, Milady Casco, Laura Gámez
The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
The worlds of ancient Mesoamerica were awash with color – from the textiles of everyday households, to the elaborate paintings and adornments of temples and shrines in the great cities. The 2022 Mesoamerica Meetings examine these cultures of color as expressed over time and space, highlighting the recent studies of technique, chemistry, representation and language.
In recent research, color has emerged as a productive line of inquiry, exploring uses and applications that reveal both changes and constants over time. New techniques detect how color brings buildings and artworks to life, both in ancient and contemporary times, reminding us that what we see today are often faded versions of once vibrant and colorful works. The symbolism of color encompassed the worlds of people and things, enhancing objects and the human body, to express ideas in both visual and material forms, through hues and pigments. Metaphorically expressive colors were integrated into narratives of mythology and cosmic structures, emphasizing analogies, contrasts, and systems of meaning.
A prism of Mesoamerican ideas about color takes varied shape, from tangible to symbolic. A brilliant range of visible colors are the substance of manuscripts and codices preserved from ancient times, while colors now invisible need to be probed through chemical analysis of mineral or botanical remains. To do so is to reconstruct a vision of the original appearance of buildings, murals, and carved monuments, or the colors of flowers in ritual offerings. Color is at times inseparable from tangible material, implying a correspondence between Mesoamerican hues and the essence of objects or their contexts of use, like the blue-green of jade jewels, the red of cinnabar in tombs, the polychrome clays of slipped ceramics, or the iridescent spectrum of feathers.
Following the digital format of last year’s conference, The 2022 Mesoamerica Meetings will again convene entirely online. Despite the challenges brought by the continuing pandemic that made travel impossible a year ago, the Mesoamerica Meetings reached an unprecedented audience of followers around the globe. Once again, this year Austin’s long-standing conference provides an opportunity to gather, share ideas, and learn from one other, all without leaving home. The 2022 theme, Cultures in Color, assembles a schedule of engaging talks that reveal the wide spectrum of colors among the Mexica, the Maya, and other cultures, and the many meanings they conveyed.