Digital prints, 2013

This work is part of The Durazo Series.

As I read through FBI documents I am often challenged to figure out which parts are fiction, speculation, and fact. The files seem deceptively solid, even factual, but there is so much left unknown, withheld, lost, or alluded to. Often, I am left doubting, as I try to pull together fragments in order to form a persistently incomplete picture of events.

I wound up with the same doubts as I began studying Frederick Catherwood’s etchings of Mayan ruins. I had always assumed that these famous drawings were ‘true’ records of what Catherwood saw. Although he did make accurate drawings using a camera obsucra on site and historians consider his renderings of the crumbling architecture ‘documentary’, he also tremendously altered the landscape by employing locals to cut down trees, clear away undergrowth, and reposition architectural fragments in order to frame the ruins in classic romantic compositions.

In addition, the final etchings were actually done by other artists in New York and London. If one examines the drawings closely it becomes clear that non-native plants, varying shadows, and repeated patterns in the landscape are informed by the etching artists’ imagination rather than observation. Rather than showing the skies over the Yucatan, I imagine the etchings show the skies outside of an artists’ studio in London and New York.


The Skies over London or New York, 2013, series of 3, edition of 5, digital print on cotton paper, 36.5 x 48.5 cm.



Engraving by Catherwood


Engraving by Catherwood

Virginia_Colwell_ vista skies

The Skies Over London and New York installed in MARSO gallery.