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“Born Again” by Maria Berrio, 2015

In a novel I’m writing I include an origin myth of how the isthmus of Central America was created. It’s fictional but inspired by the Mayan myths I had been reading. My protagonist reads a myth about the heroine for which she was named. The book is full of gorgeous imagery and she describes some of her favorites: The rivers, trees, and flowers flowing out of Malenque’s body, Balanque with the jaguars and monkeys and macaws rising from his. Xite with her flowing hair and fish-like tail looking anxiously over her shoulder as she swims away from the Demon-Bird Dragon. . . . . She wonders if this is where her love of art was born.

So imagine my delight when I discovered the lush collages of Maria Berrio, inspired by her own reading of myths from her native Columbia. In an interview for the Georgia Review she says:

I am deeply influenced by surrealism and magical realism, so some of my favorite classic South American authors are Borges, Neruda, and Márquez. But much of my work has, of late, been influenced by oral traditions, as well as the rituals, customs, and beliefs of South America

For example, a tale I explored in my 2017 piece Aluna references the creator figure and “Great Mother” of the Kogi people from my native Colombia. . . . .The painting depicts a female version of the mama priest in the moments just after she is brought out of the cave. Her senses are flooded with the intense beauty of the world she is charged with protecting. It is a fragile world, but she accepts her destiny.

Barrio creates her collages from hand-made papers, often with natural motifs, from the global south, such as Nepal, India, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Mexico, and Brazil. A writer from Praxis International Art describes her work this way:

Her careful and laborious assemblage of torn pieces of paper is a way of creating a transcendental space/time where myths and dreams can be told; among them, the story of the all too human yearning to recover the treasures of the lost garden of childhood, which echoes the longing for Paradise Lost.

Myths reveal the great archetypes from which the world’s art and literature and religions are evolved, and therefore from which histories and cultures arise. They can teach us great things about ourselves and this world into which we are embedded.

“Aluna” Maria Berrio, 2017
“Cricket Song” by Maria Berrio
“The Garden of My Heart” by Maria Berrio