Friday, December 25, 2009

Mastaba - Art


Mastaba is a cryptic piece with a strong historical connection. The title suggests the piece’s meaning, for a “mastaba” is an ancient Egyptian precursor to the pyramid. A burial place for pharaohs and wealthy Egyptians, the mastaba is a low, rectangular building meant to house the remains and possessions of the deceased. This painting is a study of the mastaba, capturing its essential nature rather than its actual physical appearance. The painting itself is abstract in form, but its lines are highly suggestive and have a mysterious quality.

The figure that is featured in this painting evokes an ancient Egyptian mood. The shape itself has the feel of an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph. The lines are strong and well-defined like those of a written linguistic character. Though the shape in the painting does not actually reflect the structure of an Egyptian mastaba, it captures its general nature and purpose. The dark blood red line snakes across the painting, curving upward, and its highest point supports a dense red ball. The line is the mastaba, for it is a vessel to the underworld. The line’s meandering shape represents this journey across the river Styx into the underworld. The small red ball is the mastaba’s precious cargo – the soul of the deceased.

The choice of a deep, dark red as the primary color of this piece is significant. This color symbolizes the essential life force of the deceased person buried in the mastaba. Blood, is an essential component of life that carries this force, and the selection of this blood-red shade for the color of this figure evokes the spiritual power of the mastaba to carry off the life force of the person buried within. This is a beautiful, haunting piece that brings to attention an often overlooked ancient Egyptian burial tradition.

©1998-2009 Claretta Taylor Webb. All Rights Reserved
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