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Diego Rivera's watercolors breathe life into Maya origin story at the Bowers Museum

Mexican painter Diego Rivera may be known to many for his stunning murals, but an exhibition opening Dec. 12 at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana looks at his skill working with watercolors.

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"Popol Vuh: Watercolors of Diego Rivera" features 17 works on loan from the Museo Casa Diego Rivera in the artist's hometown of Guanajuato. The lush paintings were inspired by the Popol Vuh, a sacred text in the form of an epic story that limns the legends and history of the Quiché Maya people, from their beginnings until their first encounter with the Spanish. These interlopers subsequently destroyed most of the culture's important documents, but the Popol Vuh somehow survived.

Rivera's watercolors were created as illustrations for the first English translation of the text and feature classic Maya imagery, including mythological creatures such as dragons and references to the Earth's natural elements. Excerpts from the Popol Vuh will accompany the paintings, on view through May 19.

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