Blog Post: Alicia Reyes McNamara

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Sacred Filth

By Alicia Reyes McNamara


25 October 2021

During my New Contemporaries Studio Residency with Hospitalfield, I conducted research on non-binary and gender variance present within Aztec and Mesoamerican culture. After much reading, I focused on Tlazolteotl, the deity of lust, sex workers, midwives and filth. I was attracted to the idea of rituals that explored filth as something that is inherently generative, that moved passed ideas of shame and focused on the growth and the life made through it. Tlazolteotl is a figure that lies in the in-between. They are the one that seduces you but also cleanses you of any residual negative energy that clouds your spirit. Known to eat sins, they are often portrayed with the dirt of the filthy deeds left around the bottom of their mouth. This blackness around their mouth is said to be the genesis of life. The decay and rot of any misdeed is digested and then released as a rich resource back to the earth.

At Hospitalfield I was fortunate enough to share time with some other brilliant artists. This led to nourishing new friendships and collaborations. In between all the art making we quickly bonded over astrology, hikes around the coast, discussing dreams at lunch, watching hilariously bad B Horror movies and full moon tarot card readings in the castle tower. These connections allowed us all to have fruitful conversations about our practice. Discussions with my cohort around the eating of sins inspired numerous interpretations of mythologies including the figure Tlazolteotl. I am very grateful for all that this time brought me.

Untitled, 2021, pastels and coloured pencil, 21 x 29.7cm

I was fortunate enough to have Christopher Kirubi undertaking a residency alongside me. They are a poet and artist who uses the mutability of images, objects and text to negotiate the limits of sexuality, gender, race and desire. This is a poem Christopher wrote inspired by the above drawing:
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The stirring within, 2021, pastel and coloured pencil, 21 x 29.7cm.png
The stirring within, 2021, pastel and coloured pencil, 21 x 29.7cm