November 16, 1998
Volume 51, No. 12
Carlos show features 'Shamans, Gods and Mythic Beasts'
An exhibition of more than 160 masterworks, the first traveling exhibition to focus on the important gold and ceramic sculpture of ancient Colombia, debuted at the Carlos Museum Oct. 31 and will run through Jan. 10. "Shamans, Gods and Mythic Beasts: Colombian Gold and Ceramics in Antiquity" will display many works of art that have never been outside of Colombia, the fabled land of "El Dorado," the man of gold.
Forty-three of the works are gold ornaments, and the remaining are elaborate clay sculptures. Works were chosen by curator Armand Labbé of The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, Calif., to represent all regions of ancient Colombia. Onsite curator will be Rebecca Stone-Miller, associate professor of art history and the museum's faculty curator of art of the ancient Americas.
In order to provide visitors with a framework to better understand the cross-regional use of designs and motifs, the exhibition will break from the traditional mode of grouping objects by region. Instead, Labbé has organized the pieces by type into six thematic sections: seated figures; standing figures; masks; anthropomorphic figures; zoomorphic figures; and shamans and priests.
"The show does not simply gather beautiful gold and clay pieces from a cultural area somewhat less well-known to us than, say, ancient Mexico or Peru," said Stone-Miller. "It does not simply allow us to appreciate the glitter, power and artistry of many different subcultures and styles of Colombia. Rather, 'Shamans, Gods and Mythic Beasts' explores a vitally important theme: the shamanic relationship to the supernatural that formed such an important part of the Colombian worldview." The exhibition reveals that indigenous Amerindian expressions of shamanism differ quite a bit from recent, popular conceptions, Stone-Miller said.
Particular clay sculptures in the show contain a variety of symbols of the shaman, especially the bench and the animal counterparts on the head and back. Other pieces explore the transformation of the shaman into animals and the many gradations of pose, with and without benches, that betray the presence of the supernatural. "For instance, a wonderful sculpture of an empty chair evokes the absent shaman, echoing his ecstatic flight out of the body in artistic shorthand," Stone-Miller said.
Several events round out museum programming devoted to the show including a Nov. 17 lecture by Atlanta collector Steven Kramer, who has pieces of his collection shown in "Shamans, Gods and Mythic Beasts," and an illustrated lecture Nov. 19 by Labbé titled "Decoding Shamans, Gods and Mythic Beasts: A Visual Odyssey Through the Pre-Columbian Mind." Sundays, from Nov. 22 to Dec. 13, the museum will host the "Mythic Beasts" Ceramic Art workshop for children ages 8 to 12, led by guest artist Barb Doll of Georgia State University.
For more information call 404-727-4282 or visit the museum's web site at <www. emory.edu/CARLOS/>.