Over the past decade, excavations and new research at two Maya sites, Bonampak and San Bartolo, located in present-day Mexico and Guatemala, have radically revised and enriched our understanding of Maya kingship and culture. The interdisciplinary work of 1997 Skidmore graduate Heather Hurst has played a central role in these breakthroughs. On view at the Tang Museum October 11 to January 23, 2009, this study exhibition features Hurst’s recent renderings of Maya murals from San Bartolo, a selection of her earlier mural reconstructions from Bonampak, original architectural drawings, and related historical objects drawn from the Tang Museum collection.
Grounded in her training as an artist and archeologist, Hurst’s painted reconstructions of Maya murals draw on her deep research into Maya court life, her chemical analysis of the murals’ original pigments, color range, and intensity, and her fluency in Maya glyphic inscriptions. Her work combines art with science to spark a new understanding of the cultural information encoded in the murals. Along with recent breakthroughs by other scholars in deciphering Maya glyphs, Hurst’s mural reconstructions decode and depict a complex political system far older than previously grasped, one based on myth and military might.
Hurst’s unique work draws equally on her acute visual insight and her scientific knowledge of Maya culture and history to provide other scholars new clarity and information for their own studies of the visual record. In this way, Hurst’s mural reconstructions have helped catalyze new scholarship that revises our view of the Maya. The significance of this work was recognized by the MacArthur Foundation in 2004 when Hurst was named a MacArthur Fellow in recognition of her Bonampak work.
Heather Hurst and Stephen Houston, Professor of Anthropology and Archeology at Brown University, will join Professor Bender for a Dunkerley Dialogue at the Tang Museum at 4:00 o’clock, Sunday, October 19, in the Payne Room.