Primordial Goddess: Minerva Ayon’s Big Bang

August 21, 2017 by

The italic script, written by Minerva Ayon, are excerpts of the performance unveiling Minerva’s installation, The Bushy Business, this past July. A special thank you to Minerva for providing the original text.

In the beginning, 14 billion years ago, there was nothing but a great abyss; gas, rocks and dust floated through the universe. Everything was darkness, lifeless, dead.

Adorned with face paint and faux snake, summer intern Sara Quinn read Public Art Resident Minerva Ayon’s script as the sun set. The surrounding crowd, lighting their sparklers, welcomed the night with fire.

13,700 billion years ago, there was a great outburst. From “nothing” emerged all matter. The origin of the universe, a primordial explosion that continues in unending expansion: The Big Bang.

Drawing from Christian and Aztec cosmogony and scientific hypotheses, Minerva invited fellow artists and community members to reenact the origin of everything—tinted with her own visual interpretation of events. The script continues, describing two gods: one became the sun and the other who tempted the “voracious, primitive and monstrous marine creature, half crocodile and half fish” out from the water.

Before he could submerge himself again, two gods took him, and stretched his body to give the earth its shape. Its eyes became lagoons; its tears, rivers; its orifices, caves. After that, they gave it the gift of plants, like hair spreading across the earth, to soothe its pain.

Nearing the conclusion, the crowd counted down to an eruption of smoke bombs, filtered light, and music; the Big Bang was reborn in wood, cardboard, and shopping carts.

Now—thanks to a cloud of nearly-holographic plastic looming over an inflatable gorilla—Minerva’s moment of creation is sustained, nestled beside Heather Kapplow’s Going and in a bed of Queen Anne’s lace. With the help of studio manager Chris Petrone and, later, Jeff and Woody, the cloud was hauled from Minerva’s workspace and fastened in place, secure against the wind and rain it will inevitably endure in the weeks to come. Knowing her installation, The Big Bang or Bushy Business, would be outside, Minerva imagined the rolls of reflective sheet plastic she bought before coming to WSW would be the hallmark of the project. When in sunlight, the black plastic turns to a speckled rainbow while the clearer plastic is tinged pink and blue.

“I was thinking about recreating Martian life, or my idea of how it would look,” she says, referencing her use of the refractive materials. “I have a fascination with rocks and read that meteors seem to be more complex than minerals found on earth. The more I researched, I thought, ‘Okay, I want to work with these.’”

Minerva’s practice at times seems to exist in another world, as it ranges from sculpture to inflatable costumes to installations made with plastic bags and darts. Highly experimental, even the functional work made during her 2016 Chili Bowl Workspace Residency is unquestionably hers. However, her projects are often governed by the rules set by an outside source of inspiration. In the past, this has meant Mid-Century Modern patterns, Oaxacan textiles, and tattoos.

For The Big Bang or Bushy Business, it was Piet Mondrian. Looking for ways to abstract the landscape, Minerva recalled that Mondrian’s horizontal and vertical lines symbolize opposites—specifically the feminine and masculine. She explains, “I found this interesting because we are in a women’s space. As you see all of the shapes are created with horizontal lines: either they have spikes or something going through the shape.”

Women have been a recurring figure theme in Minerva’s recent work, propelled by her own experience and the experiences of other women artists. She currently has a solo show near where she lives in Cuernavaca, Mexico, titled  La Diosa Rabiosa—the rabid goddess—that partly plays with the concept of women as historical, formal elements of art. 

While gods formed the earth in her version of the Big Bang, Sara—dressed as a goddess—and Minerva instigated the action. A playful juxtaposition of the natural and synthetic, The Big Bang or Bushy Business is a fantastical and cosmic space. During her previous WSW residency, Minerva told us that end of the day, it is important to remember the artist and art are separate; she can walk away from her work at the end of the day. “So enjoy the space,” she offers, “and have fun here.”

Minerva Ayon is a both Chili Bowl Workspace Residency and Public Art Grant alumna based in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. As a sculptor and interdisciplinary artist, her work ranges from textiles to ceramics to interactive installation. She holds a BA in Sculpture from Center of Arts of Morelos, her MFA from the National University of Mexico, and has studied at Concordia University, Montreal. 

Find more photos from her residency on our Flickr!