Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity," Part 9

We conclude our presentation of Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity" with today's installment of the series she produced for Exxplorevision, an Instagram community dedicated to promoting the work of women photographers. Kass and her husband Eric, both known for their distinctive style of photographing daily life, will be teaching a creative photography workshop in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala in February 2018. Our accommodations and studio space will be at Posada de Santiago, and we will visit many of the villages around Lake Atitlan, a place that has entranced the Menchers for years. This workshop is filling and is expected to sell out. We are offering an early sign-up discount until September 30. For more information about the workshop, including an extensive gallery of photos by Eric and Kass, and to register, please visit the workshop page here: http://www.seekworkshops.com/select-workshop/lake-atitlan-guatemala-mencher

Thank you, Kass, for sharing your words and photos.

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dawn chorus singing
imprint of a bird in the sky
it's the era of ether





As I've written previously, I've been to Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, nine times in the past seven years, usually for 2-4 months each visit. Originally the plan was to come only once. Obviously that is not what happened. 

There is a Mayan myth about a magic ring that was thrown into the middle of the lake. The ring was imbued with the power to attract and that is why so many people come once and stay, or in my case, keep returning time and again.
Others say there are 3 major energy vortexes that also have the power of attraction: the Pyramids at Giza, Machu Pichu in Peru, and Lake Atitlán.

I like the myth about the magic ring, but hey, that's me. I believe in magic. But whatever the cause there is no doubt that I am under the spell of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala.

Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity," Parts 7 & 8

With today's installment of "Fixed in Eternity," we continue our presentation of Kass Mencher's project about Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Kass and her husband Eric Mencher have lived several months per year since 2010 in villages around Lake Atitlan, photographing and observing Maya culture and the landscape surrounding the former caldera of, now one of the world's deepest and most mysterious lakes. In February 2018, the Menchers will co-teach "The Analytical & The Intuitive," a special photography workshop in which they will lead discussions and experiments in Light and Shadow, Space (and How to Use It), Composition, and Moment. Visit the workshop page to learn more: http://www.seekworkshops.com/select-workshop/lake-atitlan-guatemala-mencher
--Andrew Sullivan

All photos and text courtesy of Kass Mencher

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silent with stones
dawn
becomes day

“We tell ourselves stories to try to come to terms with the world, to harmonize our lives with reality.” - Bill Moyers

The world began on August, 13, 3114 B.C. And it began not far from where my lady at dawn is standing, in the waters off Santiago. “Before the world was made, on Lake Atitlán existed at the center of everything. Everything was covered with water. Then the three volcanoes grew out of the lake and lifted the sky. A cosmic hearth was created which they lit with a lightning bolt igniting new life in a new dawn” - Maya elder

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For eons the Maya have fished the same fish in the same way from their cayucos that they gracefully guide along the lake, making the difficult seem easy. And Chaac the rain god, also a fisherman, provided them with a varied bounty of fish for centuries and centuries until 1958, when a plague of large mouth bass from Florida and Alabama rained down through the sky from the wings of Pan Am Airlines. Like many ill-considered ideas prompted by self-interest (tourist dollars) and not much else, this did not end well.

The Maya ended up with less fish--not more--and many local species were devoured out of existence. Pan Am went bust and lake hotels were able to fill rooms anyway, without the help of the U.S. sports fisherman.

Today, fishermen's wives still get up before sunrise to make fresh tortillas for their husbands who still begin their days with the twilight of dawn.

Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity," Parts 5 & 6

We are happy to publish the third part of the project Kass Mencher completed earlier this year on  Lake Atitlan, Guatemala for @exxplorevision, an Instagram community that promotes the work of women photographers. Kass and her husband Eric Mencher will lead a workshop in Santiago Atitlan from February 18-23, 2018. --Andrew Sullivan

Photos and text courtesy of Kass Mencher

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boat becomes volcano
volcano clouds
clouds sky
all becomes light
.
.
Shapeshifter
.
.
In wisdom cultures the artist acts as a shaman or shapeshifter. He or she is someone who walks between worlds.
Antonio Ramirez Sosóf an indigenous, Tz'utuzil was a shapeshifter. A lumberjack for 30 years, he gave it up when the time of "La Violencia" began in Guatemala--it would have been certain death for him to appear alone in the forest. And Antonio was about life. He became a woodcarver instead, learning to listen to the whispers of the wood, whispering to him what it wanted to be. When his back and shoulder wore out he had a vision of becoming a painter using needle and thread.

Many of his vividly embroidered pieces hang in the restaurant at the Posada de Santiago in Santiago. They depict his world, the sacred and the profane, the waking and the dream one all in one frame. I suspect that to Antonio Ramirez Sosóf it was all real. It was all good.

Near the end of his long life he lost his sight but not his smile. Perhaps he already knew his vision would live on.

 

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wrapped in herstory
in shades of blue
moonlight's descendent
.
.
.
Meditation on Blue
.
.
.
Blue is the color of the spirit. It is the color of water and sky. It is the world's favorite color.
The Maya have their own blue, Maya Blue.
Due to its indestructibility it is considered to be one of the great artistic and technological advances to come out of Meso-America.

It is the color of clear skies in the dry season. And it is the rain god Chaac's favorite color. At the "Well of Sacrifice" in the northern Yucatan, a lot of pottery and at least 127 humans, mostly male, all painstakingly painted Maya Blue, perished in order to woo some rain out of Chaac.
Centuries later different sacrifices were made. Indigo known as the "king of dyes" led to many indigenous dying for the King of Spain. Others made fortunes satisfying the royal appetite. But the people on the plantations were paid 1 peso every 20 days and the unpaid factory workers paid with their lives, lucky to live 7 more years.

Most of the women in San Antonio Palopo still wear traje, traditional dress. This includes a hair ribbon (cinta), blouse (huipil), sash (faja), shawl ( rebozo), and a skirt (corte). The whole ensemble can cost $250 dollars and the blouse can take up to 6 months of labor. Each village has different colors. San Antonio's use shades of blue with vertical stripes. But traje is so much more than a personal expression. It is a story of their life, and their history. It is a testament to their perseverance in the face of unrelenting adversity. And like the color, Maya Blue, the indigenous women of Guatemala are indestructible and continue to dazzle despite it all. 

Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity," Parts 3 & 4

Today we bring you the next installment in the project Kass Mencher completed earlier this year on her perceptions of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala for @exxplorevision, an Instagram community that promotes the work of women photographers. Kass and her husband Eric Mencher will lead a workshop in Santiago Atitlan in February. --Andrew Sullivan

All photos and text below courtesy of Kass Mencher.

 

JOY
explodes
into
day

.
(DOG RUNNING INTO LAKE)

At the lake, Lake Atitlán, you learn quickly that you are not the masters. And that you will do well to observe the rhythms of mother nature. She will richly award you with an abundance of time. There will be time enough to watch a dog frolic in the lake. You will have plenty of time to marvel as a duck bobs for lunch-time minnows and then struggles to scale the highest tree stump to be closer to the sun. You will even have 40 minutes on a Friday night to watch regimental columns of ants march away the dead carcass of a scorpion. At the lake, Lake Atitlán, there is time enough to watch, to wonder and to learn - to learn there is another way.

 

 


soft blanket sky
cover lullaby lake
cradle boat rocks
in 6/8 time
lullamenting
this morning
among mountains
and mist

.
.
While I am here
.
fears that follow
fade
beneath forever skies
evaporate
in the crossing
of an ancient lake
shrink
beside a fire and
brimstone volcano
pale
in the night light
light years away
fears that fallow
disappear
.
While I am here
.
.