To walk through Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea was to be transported completely. During its springtime engagement at the Saint Louis Art Museum, this exhibit whisked visitors centuries back in time to the world of the ancient Maya. Water, to this civilization, was at once a sustaining life force and an object of great spiritual reverence. To respect the seas was to respect the gods — and to remain connected to departed ancestors. Brilliantly curated, Fiery Pool included more than 90 works divided into galleries-within-galleries. The show was a triumph of archaeology, with delicate pieces remaining perfectly intact and intense colors — particularly the deep turquoise favored by the Maya — not losing one bit of their vibrancy. The combination (and, at times, even conflation) of the spiritual and the everyday was sublime. Here, three face ornaments of the Mexican wind god Quetzalcoatl. There, a lovely painted bowl with the inscription "for deer tamales." At its peak the Mayan empire stretched across southern Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula, present-day Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. Today, we are left to find our own way as we piece together the civilization's rise and fall. Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea took us on that journey. This was a wonder of a show — an exhibition exploring the cosmos and the human predicament with equal grace.
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