Vital Voids: Cavities and Holes in Mesoamerican Material Culture (Hardcover)
The Resurrection Plate, a Late Classic Maya dish, is decorated with an arresting scene. The Maize God, assisted by two other deities, emerges reborn from a turtle shell. At the center of the plate, in the middle of the god’s body and aligned with the point of emergence, there is a curious sight: a small, neatly drilled hole.
Art historian Andrew Finegold explores the meanings attributed to this and other holes in Mesoamerican material culture, arguing that such spaces were broadly understood as conduits of vital forces and material abundance, prerequisites for the emergence of life. Beginning with, and repeatedly returning to, the Resurrection Plate, this study explores the generative potential attributed to a wide variety of cavities and holes in Mesoamerica, ranging from the perforated dishes placed in Classic Maya burials, to caves and architectural voids, to the piercing of human flesh. Holes are also discussed in relation to fire, based on the common means through which both were produced: drilling. Ultimately, by attending to what is not there, Vital Voids offers a fascinating approach to Mesoamerican cosmology and material culture.
[A] wonderfully illustrated book...Finegold has offered us a well-written, well-illustrated book on a topic that has received relatively little attention...Finegold manages to pierce a productive hole in our previous frame of understanding, allowing for a new and creative reinterpretation of a Mesoamerican cultural tradition and the underlying worldview.
— 21: Inquires into Art, History, and the Visual
One of the great contributions of this volume...is to provide a model for using deep object reading—integrating material, iconographic, and sociohistorical interpretations of a single ceramic dish—as a springboard into uniquely Mesoamerican philosophical systems of aesthetics, ontology, and metaphysics. Finegold’s arguments also open the door to a further consideration of voids in Mesoamerican material culture (and they are everywhere once one begins to look for them), acknowledging that his text does not and could not cover the full scope of the subject. The implications of his central thesis are far-reaching and will no doubt spark further debate and exploration by other scholars.
— Latin American & Latinx Visual Culture