Pre-Columbian civilizations in Central America used the human body as a prism for understanding and depicting the supernatural. Artworks from the era portray a human head emerging from the jaws of a monster, the transformation of bodies into divine beings, and passage into the afterlife. Objects from five Mesoamerican civilizations—Maya, Teotihuacán, Nayarit, Zapotec, and Aztec—explore the spiritual and the sacred, plumbing the mutable line between humans, gods, and animals.
This exhibition grew from a robust, three-year collaboration with the Worcester Art Museum (WAM), designed to activate their Mesoamerican collection and to involve Williams students in groundbreaking research and exhibition-making. Professor Antonia Foias, Chair and Professor of Anthropology at Williams, mined the WAM collection for representations of the human body. She worked closely with students on independent projects, bringing them to WAM for close study of their installation as well as objects in storage. WAM graciously granted eleven loans for an entire year: for research in the fall and The Seeds of Divinity exhibition, which opened in the spring. Students in the fall Anthropology 281 course collaborated on the interpretation and display of the objects, including the labels and audio tour below. WAM will have the opportunity to incorporate the students’ findings, including new titles and dates for objects, into their collection documentation.
The Seeds of Divinity is curated by Antonia Foias, Chair and Professor of Anthropology, and her Anthropology 281 class. Exhibition design by David Gürçay-Morris, Associate Professor of Theatre. This exhibition includes generous loans from the Worcester Art Museum and the Yale University Art Gallery.