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For the Maya, as it is for most agrarian societies, water played a paramount role in daily life. But in Central America, the narrow isthmus bordered on two sides by oceans, water was plentiful even when the rains were scarce. This abundance of water shaped the cultural and spiritual life of the Mayans, and thus influenced their art as well. Myths of creation and destruction, legends and folk tales, and poetry all prominently featured water — and still do today, in fact. K'iche' Maya poet Humberto Ak'abal's well-received 1993 book of poems, Guardian of the Waterfall, continues this cultural tradition. Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea, the new exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (314-721-0072 or, features a stunning collection of water-inspired art from Mayan history. Effigies of water creatures and plants, representations of gods in their watery domains, objects crafted from seashells — all of these objects relay the mystical and very real power water embodied in daily life. Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea is on display Sunday, February 13, through Sunday, May 8. The museum is open every day except Monday, and admission is $4 to $8, but free on Friday.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 13. Continues through May 8, 2011

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