Overbeck - Antigua

Leanna Overbeck


As a first-generation daughter of a Guatemalan immigrant, I was always mesmerized by the beauty of Guatemala, from its landscapes, people, artwork, everything imaginable, but specifically the vibrant and intricate textiles produced by the Mayan women of Guatemala. These textiles, produced by the Mayan women of Guatemala, have been carried with me daily throughout life, varying from my clothing to purses, and are the core memory I have associated with my childhood and mother’s culture. Even in the present day, these textile artifacts persist as indispensable elements of my daily existence, functioning as links to a culture that frequently seems distant owing to geographical distance. As a child, I was unaware of the significance these textiles hold within the indigenous Guatemalan women's lives and how complex of a history their work holds. Although my youthful admiration for these textiles primarily emanated from their visual allure, the passage of time has revealed a profound verity. The textiles meticulously crafted from the environment by the indigenous women encapsulate a significance surpassing simply artistic beauty; they embody instruments of economic sustenance, empowerment, and cultural expression.

The art of weaving serves as an essential aspect of Guatemalan Mayan women's culture, representing a reflection of their ancestors' significance and simultaneously providing a viable source of financial support. However, the confines of a machismo-influenced society prevalent in indigenous Guatemala have impacted the role of textiles in Mayan women's lives. Given the scarcity of education opportunities for women, weaving often constitutes as the only available financial option, particularly as many women become mothers at a young age. Mayan women often encounter dismissal despite their pivotal roles as primary financial providers, caregivers, farmers, and artisans. This imbalance in societal recognition prompts an ongoing struggle for equality, although progress is gradual and continuous.

Inspired by the Mayan women's mastery of traditional techniques such as natural dyeing and backstrap weaving, I aspire to honor their artistry by creating a large-scale woven tapestry intertwining photographic transfers and cyanotypes of the remarkable women of Antigua, Guatemala. I aim to celebrate their resilience, creativity, and unwavering commitment to cultural preservation. I seek to mirror the techniques employed in indigenous Guatemala, seamlessly intertwining these textile traditions with my own memories and identity. Through this process, I hope to create a unique tapestry that not only honors the legacy of the Mayan women but also serves as a testament to their enduring spirit and deserving place in society.