Pastel drawing by Mark Vallen

"She Who Wears Bells on Her Cheeks"
Mark Vallen 1993. Chalk pastel on paper.
2 1/2 x 5 1/2 ft

Artist's statement:

"My life-sized chalk pastel portrait depicts a Chicana street musician holding a pair of colorfully painted gourd maracas and a picture of the Aztec moon goddess, Coyalxauhqui (pronounced Coh-yohl-shau'-kee). I was inspired to create my drawing after walking one afternoon through Los Angeles' historic MacArthur Park, where I encountered a Mexican Folk Dance group entertaining the people.

I worked for six months creating my artwork on a large sheet of German printmaking paper. Drawing directly with pigment rich Sennelier soft chalk pastels, I also used a variety of tools like rags, q-tips, and even my fingers to accomplish certain effects. I wore a disposable particle mask the entire time as the soft texture of the pastel created a lot of chalk dust; hence, after each work session I would use a spray fixative.

In 1978 electrical workers excavating below street level in Mexico City found an enormous circular monolith carved from volcanic stone that depicted the moon goddess. The carving measured some 11 feet in diameter, nearly 12 inches thick, and weighed 8.5 tons.

Historic Aztec pictographs showed the Coyalxauhqui stone to be located at the base of the Templo Mayor, or Great Temple. It was immediately understood by archeologists that finding the stone meant they had at last found the Sacred Precinct at the very center of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.

Coyalxauhqui was one of the primary deities of the ancient Aztecs, or Mexica (Meh-sheeh-kah) as they called themselves. Loosely translated from the Aztec language of Nahuatl into English, the name of the goddess means "She Who Wears Bells on Her Cheeks."

The discovery led to the excavation of the entire area from 1978 to 1982, which unearthed a treasure trove of over 7,000 objets d'art and revealed hidden histories of the Aztec Empire. In 1987 the Templo Mayor Museum was built on site to house these amazing artifacts, including a stunning display of the Coyalxauhqui stone.

In the early 1990's I visited the Templo Mayor Museum, which I consider to be one of the best museums in the world. The Coyalxauhqui stone is a masterwork, and arguably one of the greatest of all Aztec/Mexica artifacts. The Coyalxauhqui stone has become iconic in modern Mexico, its representation has even been printed on Mexican money. By extension it has become a symbol of Mexican American pride." is owned and operated by Mark Vallen All text by Mark Vallen.