I’m so excited to announce my new weekly series, Masterpiece Monday! Every Monday, I will share with you one fabulous work of art worth looking and thinking about with your family. I’ll give you a little bit of information, inspiration, and ideas for teaching about this work to your kids. You can join in the fun too. Check out the bottom of the post for instructions on how to share your own artwork of the week!
When I give instructions to “you” in this post, I am referring to you, yes, but also your student (the language just flows way better when I say you). You can ask these same questions to your child to form a discussion about the art.
This week, I am featuring Urn in the Form of Cociyo, Zapotec God of Lightning and Rain, a Zapotec sculpture from the Kimbell Art Museum. Take a look below and look closely before moving on to the rest of the post. His name is pronounced co-see-yo.
This super-cool sculpture is of a super-important Zapotec god, Cociyo. He was said to be both the god of lighting and rain but also the creator of the universe. Now that you know that, look again at the Zapotec sculpture. This time, look for shapes or imagery that you think could relate to lighting or rain. For example, look at the shapes of the eyes/eyelids. What shape does that remind you of?
Look at the below image of the Zapotec sculpture pointing out some key points of the artwork and then read below what each part may represent.
Zapotec Sculpture Symbolism
(match the colors below with the above image to get an explanation of the symbolic imagery in this Zapotec sculpture): 
Blue Arrow: Notice how the shape of the Cociyo’s eyes/eyelids resembles a the shape of a cloud.
Green Arrow: This shape in Zapotec art supposedly alludes to a jaguar. The shape of the mouth also resembles an Olmec baby rain god (also called a “were-jaguar”) . The mighty jaguar’s roar resembles thunder. How would you feel if you heard the loud roar of a jaguar?
Yellow Arrow: The double-pronged tongue resembles the tongue of a snake, and the snake’s tongue represents a fierce flash of lightning.
Pink Arrows: The wavy lines and other designs on Cociyo’s kilt represent various elements of a thunderstorm. Do you see more snakes?
Purple Arrows: These clothes here are traditional dress for a priest. The large collar and the large round earplugs on this Zapotec sculpture show his high status. The striped lines on his collar/cape could possibly represent feathers.
Now that you know and can see the elements of lightning and rain, why do you think this culture might need a god of rain. What value does rain have in a culture like this one? Rain was important for the survival of society. With no rain, the staple corn crops wouldn’t survive.
8 Free Art Appreciation Worksheets
includes the Elements & Principles!
Download 8 Free Art Appreciation Worksheets – including 2 Elements and Principles pages! Activities designed to work with almost any work of art. Help your students connect with art while having fun!
Zapotec Art Activity Ideas
- The Kimbell’s website has two great audio recordings to listen to about this artwork: one for adults and one for kids. Check them out if you want to learn more about this Zapotec sculpture. **Note if you listen to the kid’s recording (which is awesome btw), it has sounds of thunder, jaguar roars, and dripping water. If you have a sound-sensitive kid like me, you may want to skip it or warn them it will happen.
- The following worksheets from my $12 Art Appreciation Printable Worksheet Bundle work well with this artwork: Art Reflections (I see, I think, I wonder)*, Memory Drawing, Write a Letter*, Art for Sale, Write a Cinquain Poem*, Write a Haiku*, and “I am” Character Poem. The ones marked with a * are also available in my free worksheets bundle for e-mail subscribers.
- Study the history Zapotec civilization to better inform your understanding of this artwork.
- Make your own Zapotec sculpture rain god out of air dry clay or model magic!
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Thanks for reading about this awesome Zapotec sculpture! See you next Monday to learn about another awesome work of art!
 “Urn in the Form of Cociyo, God of Lightning and Rain.” Kimbell Art Museum. Kimbell Art Museum, n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2014. <https://www.kimbellart.org/collection-object/urn-form-cociyo-god-lightning-and-rain>.
 “Were-jaguar.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 12 May 2014. Web. 5 Oct. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Were-jaguar>.