Condora, 23" tall, walnut 2013
December 19th: We arrived in Cusco in the afternoon. Our host, Valerio Quinones Leon met us at the airport and drove us back to the guest house where we will be staying for the next 3-4 weeks. We drank some coca tea, with Valerio and his wife Naty, and then we took a nap,before we set out on foot to explore Cusco, the Plaza de Armas, and Qorikancha at night. At the Plaza de Armas, we saw many typical Christmas decorations mingled with Inca statues, Puma heads, and Catholic creches in the main square. We wandered a bit further, and stumbled upon Qorikancha, where there was a Catholic service in one part of the church, and an Andean service in another part. Everyone here says there is tolerance between the two religions. Since we are staying in the old part of the city, everywhere, there are layers of history and culture.
December 20th: We set out to explore the city on foot, and went to the art school where we will be working for the next 3 weeks, to make work for the upcoming show at Qorikancha. From there, we wandered into the main market, where you can buy prepared foods, or fruits, vegetables, cheese, fish, and anything else you can imagine. After a delicious lunch of chuta bread, with avocados, tomatoes, farmer's cheese and mangoes, we went to see the Museo Inka, that had some amazing examples of mummy cloths from the Paracas culture. We also saw contemporary examples of weavings with the Paracas designs, and some gourd carvings, that are also a very traditional type of folk art of the Andes. In the evening, we met with our friend Jose Luis Morales Sierra, and made dinner together, drank a bottle of wine and got to know each other better. He has arranged another show at the ICPNA, Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano, with North and South American artists, and he has invited us to submit some drawings for this show that will open January 31st.
December 21st: We met Jose early and set out on the bus to see the sacred archaeological sites near Cusco. We hiked from Tambomachay, to Pukapukara, to San Sebastian, Q'enqo and Saqsayhuaman and back down to the Plaza de Armas. We learned that the everyday stones with mortar were built around living quarters, and the more geometic shaped, anguar stones enclosed the sacred spaces. The whole shape of a map of Cusco, is said to be in the form of a Puma. Saqsayhuaman is located at the head of the puma, and the jagged stone walls make up the mouth and teeth. Many rocks have niches carved into them, into which they wrapped and placed their mummies. Hence these large, natural rock formations were cemeteries.
December 22nd: We went to the market this morning, and then to see the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. There were so many amazing examples of moche pottery, that we had only seen in books! The pottery was very sculptural in addition to being masterfully crafted. This afternoon we went to find the puma house in Cusco, it was a little underwhelming, but nonetheless, we spent a rainy afternoon drawing, and making watercolors of the mighty puma and condor, conjuring images from our imagination and the local sites. Persi and Nora arrived from Lima after nearly 30 hours on the bus, and we celebrated their arrival with a dinner party in Cusco with Jose Luis Morales Sierra and Vera Tyuleneva, the former curator at the Qorikancha.
December 23rd: We had a very busy and a very full day. We went to the market early, then ate breakfast with Nora and Persi. We met Jose at the Art School in Cusco, and sat with the Director General, Professor Carlos Larrea Garcia, to arrange the logistics of working at the art studios for the next 3 weeks. After we said goodbye to him, we went to the studios to meet the general managers, to arrange the tools, materials, and times we can work. We came home for lunch and then set out again to look for tools on the black market then we went to meet with Mabel Allain at the Qorikancha Museum to arrange the logistics for our upcoming exhibition in the galleries. When we left there, we set out to another side of the city in a taxi to buy wood. We found so many huge sections of exotic woods to carve, like mahogany, cocobolo, padouk and bubinga, it was difficult to make a choice, but we came away with one or two good looking scraps, and a giant beam, 9"x14"x12ft! Tomorrow we will go in search of a chainsaw with which to carve our materials.
Decemberr 24th: Christmas eve Day we worked on the press release for our upcoming show, and then headed out to the handicrafts markets all over town. Many indigenous people come from the mountains to sell their wares for two days, and stay on the Plaza de Armas. Everyone comes out to do their holiday shopping for their creches, and see friends. We found a few treasures and gifts to bring back with us, and learned alot more about the culture. We came back in the afternoon to prepare some dishes we were bringing to a holiday gathering we were invited to by Vera Tyuleneva, the former curator at Qorikancha. We went over at 8p, with mango salsa, roasted beets and a fruit salad. She prepared a roasted stuffed chicken, potatoes, home made applesauce and a fruitcake. There were about 12 of us piled into her kitchen making merry. The tradition is to feast until midnight, and then celebrate Christmas at 12am by wishing everyone Feliz Navidad! We wandered home shortly thereafter and collapsed into bed. What an amazing community!
December 25th: Feliz Navidad! We slept in and then headed out to see more markets and shops in town then we hiked back to the guest house, and saw a great view of the mountains. A very special dinner with our friends made a peaceful ending to our first Christmas in Cusco Peru.
December 26th: After a couple of days off, we got back to work, moving the wood we bought at the lumberyard to the ateliers at the art school. It was a group effort. In the afternoon, we went to buy tools. The view from the art school windows is magnificent overlooking the mountains beyond Cusco. This will be a haven to work for the next 3 weeks.
December 27th: Our first day working in the studio. The electric chainsaw and grinders worked well. We were there all day, until we left to go to the market for groceries after dark. A perfect day!
December 28th: Looking for more Condor and Puma inspirations around Cusco.
December 29th: Andy & I wander up to a park with some very contemporary interpretations of the mythic trilogy: condor, puma and the snake. Corn is also a very popular symbol of the Andes. You can find corn and quesa on the street, which is corn on the cob, served with a slab of farmers cheese. Another popular symbol that we see here, is two ceramic bulls, cemented to the roof tiles on top of the houses. Often they are flanking a cross, but this one has a condor and corn symbol instead. They represent good luck for the house.
December 30th: Great day in the studio with the Puma taking shape and Andy's bird skull emerging.
December 31st: The puma stands on her own two feet and the bird skull begins to proliferate with perforations.
January 1-2, 2014: We took two days off to travel to Machu Picchu. The first day we saw more archaeological sites in Ollantaytambo and we arrived in Aguas Callientes in time to climb Putukusi. The 2nd day we were blessed with clear skies and sunshine, for our trek to Machu Picchu and Huyana Picchu!
January 3-4: Back from our trip and back in the studio for a few days with the Puma and the bird skull.
January 5th and 6th: A day or two off from the studio, so we took advantage of the down time to work on our drawings, and watercolors. We have been invited to participate in a drawing show, titled Transcripciones/ Transcriptions, that will be curated by Jose Luis Morales Sierra at the ICPNA in February that will run concurrently with our show at Qorikancha.
January 7th: Back in the studio for sanding and finishing touches on the puma. Andy starts a new piece!
January 8th: Nearly finished! But that means it is nearly time to come home. The Puma gets her first coat or preservative while Andy adds color to his piece and gets the first coat of finish on.
January 9th: Finally got some color on the puma! and on the back of her skirt is a surprise!
January 10th: Puma gets buffed and polished. Now she is ready to be delivered to Qorikancha Museum along with Andy Moerlein's large bird skull. We carried them through the streets of Cusco on Friday, our last day in the studio. Check out this short video, of me moving Puma Senorita to the Qorikancha Museum in Cusco Peru. We will leave many special places and friends behind, and we will hope to return soon!