Eamon Ore-Giron, Talking Shit with Coatlicue (2017)

Jessica A. Ramirez
March 28, 2024

Eamon Ore-Giron was born in Tucson, Arizona, to an Irish mother and a Peruvian father in 1973.1 His upbringing in Arizona culturally intersected with “Indigenous, Latino, Mexican, and white American cultures.” He then spent most of his time in Mexico City, Huancayo, and Lima, Peru, and now resides in Los Angeles, California. In 1996, he received his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and, in 2006, his MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles. Ore-Giron’s 2023 Talking Shit exhibition at the James Cohan gallery in New York presented works in a series the artist began developing in 2017 while staying in Guadalajara, Mexico. In these pieces, Ore-Giron executed his conversation among deities from Mexico and Peru, including Coatlicue.2 These deities are given form through the use of semi-abstract techniques, such as what is seen in the 2017 painting, Talking Shit with Coatlicue (Fig. 1). The piece contains a contrasting white background to showcase the details of its colorful geometric shapes, forming the figure in response to the monolith that it is based on (Fig. 2). At first glance, the viewer can pinpoint features in the painting perceived as a direct translation by the artist from the monument. The prominent features include the double-serpent head, and the severed hands and skull that reference the monolith’s necklace of dismembered body parts. The large dimensions of the painting, which measures 80 x 64 inches, refers to or recognizes the monolith’s presence in any given space. Like the monolith as an enigma or mystery, Ore-Giron’s Coatlicue presents as a semi-abstract enigma, providing just enough for the viewer to recognize the piece as an artist’s interpretation.

Fig. 1. Eamon Ore-Giron, Talking Shit with Coatlicue, 2017, Flashe on linen, 80 x 64 in. [Link to source]

Fig. 2. Unrecorded Mexica (Aztec) artist, Coatlicue monolith, late 15th–early 16th century, andesite, 252 cm high, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City. [Link to source]

In an interview with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA Denver), Ore-Giron focused on the inspiration behind the overall Talking Shit series, which according to the artist, is based on “aesthetic resistance and aesthetic resilience” through ideas of survival and reinvention.3 Ore-Giron talks about his own visual interpretation of Coatlicue and Quetzalcoatl being in dialogue with the Indigenous artists responsible for their creation, and he comments on the series as a way of learning from these deities themselves. The MCA Denver interview provided insightful information regarding the artist’s vision for the Talking Shit series; however, through the facilitation of James Cohan Gallery Assistant Director Isabella St. Ivany, I was able to forward some further questions to Eamon Ore-Giron regarding his painting Talking Shit with Coatlicue. My questions were about the visual translation of the monolith, his decision to leave out the serpent skirt, and what he learned from Coatlicue. Ore-Giron responded how at the start of his Talking Shit series, he was interested in creating his version of Coatlicue after witnessing the monolith at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.4 He acknowledged the goddess has a “place of prominence within that institution and the pantheon of Mesoamerican gods.” He also stated how he was “drawn to the symmetry of the sculpture and, in particular, the double-headed serpent at the top of the figure.”

In connection to Talking Shit with Coatlicue, there are certain features of the Coatlicue monolith in dialogue to his perception. On the Coatlicue monolith, recognizable serpents face each other to form a third figure as translated in Ore-Giron’s piece. The two serpents on Ore-Giron’s piece have four fangs, similar to what is seen on the monolith. However, the texture between the two differs. Ore-Giron portrays the serpents and their fangs as soft and circular, contrasting the detail and roughness of an engraved monolith. The soft and circular fangs and the geometric colorful shapes that form his version of Coatlicue translate a less intimidating appearance for viewers to decipher what features the artist emphasized from the monolith. In contrast, the monolith engages viewers to interpret its symbolic forms associated with Coatlicue and its Indigenous culture. So, all in all, there's the artist's perspective, that of the viewers depending on their interpretations, and the Coatlicue monolith itself, a pre-Columbian object in the middle of translations and conversations.

Another thing worth noticing between the monolith and Ore-Giron’s artwork is their differences in appearance. Ore-Giron’s choice of palette in his semi-abstract piece includes different shades of blue, with some grays, reds, browns, and tan, all indicating earth tones of color. According to the James Cohan Gallery press release, his color usage "evokes the natural world and celestial phenomena," perhaps acknowledging Coatlicue as an earth deity who is the mother of the sun and moon.5 Another feature of the monolith in his semi-abstract piece is his translation of the block-like elements descending from Coatlicue’s serpent claws on at either side, which he renders as fan-like streamers extending outward. As MCA Denver curator Miranda Lash points out, similar “feather-like streamers” are found in Ore-Giron’s paintings Talking Shit with Amaru (Fig. 3) and Talking Shit with Quetzalcoatl.6 On the monolith, these elements appear bulky, framing the serpentine skirt; Ore-Giron's rendition of them transforms them into something lighter, such as drapery or feathers.

Fig. 3. Eamon Ore-Giron, Talking Shit with Amaru, 2021, Flashe and mineral paint on linen, 132 x 204 in. (335.3 x 518.2 cm). [Link to source]

Another thing to note about Talking Shit with Coatlicue is how Ore-Giron's visual interpretation transforms the serpentine skirt of the monolith into a fourth figure. The painting isolates the lower extremities of the monolith in connection with the skull pendant it wears at its waist. We see Ore-Giron’s process of reinvention with the fourth figure in his piece, including the skull attached to its semi-circular bodice. His visualization of the fourth figure is a direct translation and interpretation from the artist responsible for creating the monolith. The viewer may misinterpret Ore-Giron’s disappearance of the skirt as a form of resistance to Coatlicue’s identity, given that her name literally translates to "Serpents Her Skirt;" however, the artist’s intention was quite the opposite. When asked about his decision to leave out the skirt, he stated, "This is where abstraction and interpretation meet; I have included the skirt, but understand how you might read the painting differently. I abstracted the skirt into a series of overlapping circles—they appear almost as semi-circles—in the lower half of the painting. The overlap is meant to represent the ways the serpents in her skirt in the famous statue are braided together.”7 Ore-Giron’s translation of his connection to Coatlicue the audience fills in the gaps of where the translation was lost. As expressed earlier regarding the relationship between the modern artist—Ore-Giron—and the Indigenous artist responsible for the original sculpture, he stated that “I was interested in how to visualize these deities through my interpretation as a way of learning from them.”8 That is where a question needed to be answered to understand what the artist learned about Coatlicue. According to Ore-Giron’s email response, what he learned about Coatlicue has changed over time through his developing process of the series.9

Ore-Giron also considers his personal dialogue with Coatlicue, which occurs through his interpretation of the famous statue. This personal relationship, according to the James Cohan press release, reflects "the artist’s consideration of how cultural symbols speak across history as their meanings shift over time."10 In other words, an artistic connection between the monolith and the semi-abstract artwork is at play. Ore-Giron's stance on “aesthetic resistance and resilience” reflects how Coatlicue continues the conversations to this day despite whether or not the monolith’s aesthetics complete the identity of Coatlicue. According to Ann de León’s essay, “Coatlicue, or How to Write the Dismembered Body,” at the time of its rediscovery in the late 18th century, Coatlicue was interpreted through the lenses of curiosity and horror based on the detailing of the monolith and how unrecognizable the sculpture was by European standards of artistic value from the 18th century.11 By the mid-twentieth century, however, the monolith had become appreciated for its aesthetic power and was transformed into an icon of Aztec art. The poet Octavio Paz pointed to Coatlicue’s transition from “goddess to demon, from demon to monster, and from monster to masterpiece.”12 These critical jumps from “goddess" to "masterpiece” present a familiarity in the art world when we consider how art throughout history has revolutionized, changed, or jumped from one art movement to another. Ore-Giron's abstract image reimagines the monolith once again, engaging with the ways its forms express aesthetic resistance and resilience. We can consider how interpretations over the centuries have affected Coatlicue; therefore, we witness the monolith’s resiliency in the face of various interpretations. Coatlicue remains to spark the conversation by acknowledging how the monolith shocked Western viewers, influenced artists, and was repeatedly reinvented throughout history. Eamon Ore-Giron’s Talking Shit with Coatlicue participates in the lineage of reinvention and dialogue with the monolith through artists' visions and interpretations as reflected by many artists throughout the centuries. They try to reflect and respond to what Coatlicue means to them.


1. “Eamon Ore-Giron: Biography,” James Cohan Gallery. Retrieved on November 14, 2023. https://www.jamescohan.com/artists/eamon-ore-giron. This is also the source for the biographical information in the following three sentences.

2. “Press Release: Eamon Ore-Giron, Talking Shit,” James Cohan Gallery. Retrieved on October 5, 2023. https://www.jamescohan.com/exhibitions/eamon-ore-giron2

3. “Eamon Ore-Giron, 'Talking Shit' Series,” MCA Denver. Retrieved on September 29, 2023. https://mcadenver.org/exhibitions/eamon-ore-giron/talking-shit-series. This is also the source for the ideas attributed to the artist in the following sentence.

4. Eamon Ore-Giron, email to the author, November 3, 2023. This source applies to the rest of the paragraph.

5. “Press Release: Eamon Ore-Giron, Talking Shit.”

6. “Art in a Flash with Miranda Lash: Eamon Ore-Giron: Talking Shit with Amaru,” MCA Denver. Retrieved on September 29, 2023. https://mcadenver.org/exhibitions/eamon-ore-giron/talking-shit-series

7. Eamon Ore-Giron, email to the author.

8. “Eamon Ore-Giron, 'Talking Shit' Series,” MCA Denver.

9. Eamon Ore-Giron, email to the author.

10. “Press Release: Eamon Ore-Giron, Talking Shit.”

11. Ann De León, “Coatlicue or How to Write the Dismembered Body,” MLN 125.2 (2010): 259–286.

12. “Press Release: Eamon Ore-Giron, Talking Shit.”