In the Sacred Valley of Peru, just outside of Cusco, I came upon a group of ‘piedras sagradas’, sacred stones from the Waro culture. Hidden away in the small WACA Museo, next to a modest Catholic Church, I recognized the powerful visual language with which they were inscribed. Some were collected here as artifacts of a past culture, others had been appropriated by the Church, imbedded into the construction. These symbols held deep meaning for the Andean culture and for me, even still, I could feel their power.
According to anthropologists from the area, Renato Davila Riqueline and Liliana Davila Jurado, the spiral represents the origin of life, renewal and evolution – a cosmic connection to Spirit. The wavy lines represent the serpent, often with seven twists and turns representing the 7 levels of coming into being, the 7 chakras, the 7 colors of the rainbow, the 7 days of creation. As in many ancient cultures around the world, the serpent represents renewal and regeneration, leaving its old skin behind, a new beginning or awakening.
Imbued with a certain magic and holding secrets from the past, we can try to retrace their meaning, yet the stones are silent and will remain a mystery.
Seeing these stones reminded me of a project I created in California, ‘Symbol Stones’ for Campbell Middle School back in the ’90’s. This was part of an overall Art & Architecture project as part of the school’s renovation spearheaded by Bill Gould Design. As the artist on the project, I worked with the students, introducing them to archetypal symbols from around the world. We then carved them into a dense foam, later to be cast in concrete. A casting yard was set up on the campus, complete with cement mixer and 12″ x 12″ forms where the 7th and 8th grade students participated in casting the stones over a 6 month period. At the completion of the campus, the symbol stones were imbedded as a border encircling the plaza.
‘Piedras Sagradas I, II, III’, Oil on Canvas, 14″ x 12″
click on each image for a larger view.
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