Heriberto Luna Is Artist and Spirit Guide
Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fullerton
Closed December 29
By Sydney Walters
In Heriberto Luna’s exhibit, he asks us to trust him as he walks us through his mythology. Exhibited with honest sincerity and bolstered by a rich understanding about ancient Mayan culture, we follow through enchanting and dazzling roads of gods, goddesses and time travelers. By piecing together elements of Mayan iconography, Luna resurrects a unique cosmology. This exhibition is melded with a deep longing to engage with universalities of the human condition to shape us into compassionate players in life’s complexities.
This exhibit exposes Luna’s bold showmanship. His bright and layered textures and colors reverberate throughout the quaint gallery space. The overall layout of the show works seamlessly with the architecture of the gallery. Minute hummingbird paintings are hung intermittently around the room and next to doorways as though fluttering in and out of the passages. Between small room dividers hang larger portraits which are uniquely framed by the space’s walls. Because the gallery was once a home, Luna’s pieces are lovingly hung in uncommon nooks that transform the space into a refreshing contrast to the gallery cube.
In “The Galactic Tree of Life, The Story of Everything”, tree branches curl into tight labyrinthine trails. Square tiles encoded with different symbols unite the texture of the tree. Metallic light blue dots outline the tree against a speckled gold and black constellation. Six hummingbirds seeking nectar fly around the base of the green and blue trunk.
These tile structures are consistent in Luna’s work. In “The Rhythms of a Cosmic Sky”, a Mayan figure kneels before a vast expanse of purple and black sky. Twinkles of starlight punctuate the inky black. The figure holds a mask or a statue of a head on a platter. The head is animal-like; a creature with large fangs, lolling tongue and half-open red eyes. The orange eyes of the figure look heavenward. Like the trunk of “The Galactic Tree of Life”, the figure’s skin is a repeated tile pattern of a tiger’s face.
Following the trail of hummingbirds leads into an adjoining room with a large painted wood figure called “The Death Dealer”. It is the image of a skeleton with crossed arms and a beehive structure on his head. His cavernous eyes and lipless grin is flecked with gold. This is the three-dimensional version of “The Death Dealer” this time painted on canvas. Here the figure sits on top of tiny cubed faces. Their mouths are open and their eyes are closed in forever sleep. Glittering gold paint drips like a shimmering curtain from the top of the canvas. It is a depiction of Death on his throne.
Luna is a believer in the dramatic and the pageantry associated with myths and legends. Throughout this exhibit, Luna pinpoints moments of Mayan iconography and sweeps it into a colorful wave of paint to illuminate the faded and ancient and testify that these stories are both relevant and uniting.