In the summer of 2001, I was in Denver, Colorado for a board meeting of Potters for Peace. During this time a group of us visited the Denver Art Museum’s permanent exhibition of Pre Columbian Ceramics. It is a truly awe inspiring collection, perhaps the best in the country.
Quite a few pieces there were decorated with a thick, pasty, orange colored engobe known in the Central American Nahuatl language as “Tague” (prononced “taug-weh”). But on others, the tague seemed thin, almost like a stain. As I was contemplating these pieces, a thought struck me. I had to go back and check the labels. Sure enough, all of the pieces with the thin tague were tomb relics (as was almost everything else in the exhibit, admittedly).
Reflecting on the Meso American cultures that produced these works, one trait seemed to stand out: their particularly violent relationship to things religious. I have never seen any mention of the possibility, but of one thing I was sure: That wasn’t tague I was looking at. It was blood.