let’s face it #2.

carved Mex face

The art of the Face in Mexico, on doors and walls, is not quite as intimidating as those in my previous posting from Italy. Most Mexican street faces are mellow, even friendly.  Obviously the culture and history is different although both are strong Catholic countries with shared religious beliefs. I’m uncertain how to explain the contrast in the expressions – any ideas?

door imp face

I love this little door elf, (or duende in Spanish), from San Miguel de Allende.

face knocker

And here is a noble knocker from the same city!

wall totem Oaxaca

This Oaxaca wall totem tries to induce fear but fails with an ancient humour.

Oaxaca wall face

Whereas this lintel demon from the same city succeeds quite well – perhaps it’s an Italian import?

I’m not an intrepid world traveler or educated in social anthropology but I have visited enough countries to know that some, usually more ancient cultures, have embellished their urban and domestic architecture with these sculpted faces invoked from realms of imagination and the past. I feel very much at home as I walk dusty, cobbled streets in the company of grotesque beings peering at me from walls and doors. I miss this here in prosaic Canada where the stencil, mural or graffiti face is the equivalent visual expression.

all photos by clinock

20 thoughts on “let’s face it #2.

  1. Interesting! Maybe the expressions on the faces in Mexico that have to do with older cultures and traditions than the Catholic, is because they were more peaceful in those days?


  2. Your idea John about humour really adds an interesting twist to the whole idea of comparing faces between these cultures. Not sure this relates to humour but would the Spanish/Mexican/ imagery reflect a more recent ‘first nations’ feel than the Italian faces?


    1. The beliefs and myths of the indigenous peoples of Mexico project strongly into public art there, so I think there is much in what you say Steven – thank you…


    1. I’m a great fan of Rivera’s work myself Carl and have also admired the intricate carved crucifixes so ubiquitous in Mexico as are the iconic images of Rivera’s Frida, often displayed alongside images of the Madonna…interesting eh?


  3. John I see a link between the Grotesque and Gargoyles and think that the open mouths referred to in your previous post maybe came from the practical use of gargoyles as a way to divert water from a building……which then merged and developed as an artform. More research needed here if and when I get time. In the mean time be the first to introduce modern grotesque beings to Canada’s architecture……like New York.


    1. I certainly do see your gargoyle connection Robert and it’s a strong one. As for introducing grotesque imagery into Canada’s urban environment I guess I could paste photos of myself on the streets and architecture of Vancouver ;)…


      1. Well I don’t see any problem with your image on the web so I don’t think that will work in Vancouver………. you will just have to create some art that will do that instead 🙂


  4. Could it also be an example of how different cultures experience nature. Most pagan deities (the inspiration for these faces) reflect the culture’s experience of nature thus if Italy had a rougher climate than Mexico, their deities iconography may look grumpier. Just a thought….


  5. I am not sure how to integrate my theory about power elites keeping people on their toes #1 with these more benign beings in #2! Catholicism is just one of many threads in Mexican culture I imagine. Perhaps that leaves room for some more humane imagery?


    1. Right on Philippa…and just read your previous comment. As Steven mentioned above the strong presence of indigenous peoples in Mexico is a factor to consider, however, also remember that I have chosen just a handful of Faces from the street…go into any catholic church and one is faced with scenes far more horrific than any of the Italian Faces I posted….


      1. Such guilt and fear aroused by that old god. It did subdue the masses. I once quoted G B Shaw to a door-knocker (a person) about the dangers of organized religion. Probably misquoted, but it did the trick.


    1. Yes Giovanni I think you’re right – it’s always been interesting to me why ‘evil’ looking images were used to ward off evil! Intuitively my perception is ‘like attracts like’ rather than repels it – though perhaps it was a game of one-upmanship…my scary image is so scary that the visiting scary is scared away?


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