Ken Seligson: Archeartist or Arteologist?

me1For work, Ken Seligson never arrives late. He's an archaeologist from Port Washington, New York, currently funded by the National Science Foundation. He packs his bag with extra empanadas to share with his crew of eight, deep within the jungle's briar-filled thickets. The head of his crew goes by the nickname "Huech," which translates to armadillo, and which also means that Ken is captain of the armadillos (cue the image of an animated bug movie). Trekking through the expanses of Kaxil Kiuic, Seligson searches for something that can help him better imagine the lives of the ancient Maya, and, sometimes, that means that he has to be creative. From the field, he's brought back to the laboratory rocks "shaped like spoons" and he famously considers any rock with a hole significant. Albeit, these conclusions are made jokingly, it is Seligson's tendency towards imagination that settles his colleagues and makes him the most popular dinner companion at Kiuic. Seligson's artistic endeavors might be most aptly described by the literary term "magical realism." Human-like characters swing through the vines of Seligson's artwork, engaging in lifelike activities or stretching into new forms. This technique renders from adults what Dr. Seuss does for children. The viewer feels capable, and the artwork asks us to stop, take our time, and decode the multi-dimensional meanings embedded within the puzzle. This Marquesian fantasma associates humanity with possibility--feet with flying. Time collapses as historical figures interact with those from the future, and animals wear the faces of humans. These juxtapositions recur fleetingly, as they suggest that we are not tied to a singular existence, rather, freedom exists in the eye of the imagination.



Without further ado, the interview:

The ultimate travel destination: One day I’d really like to spend some time in a small town on an isolated island somewhere, get the feeling of living at the edge of the world…maybe in the Azores or Shetland Islands.

 If you could have one super power... Not too creative in this respect, I’m afraid: to be able to fly would be the best (especially considering the opportunities it would open to travel).

 Your favorite art project as a kid: Aside from a general enthusiasm for painting with acrylics, I really liked building a tower out of toothpicks and tiny marshmallows in my 3rd Grade art class.

Beer or wine? Depends on the time, depends on the place.

Name one experience that impacted you tangibly to become who you are today. It wasn’t one single experience, but as a result of having the opportunity to visit a number of amazing Mesoamerican archaeological sites as a kid I developed a deep curiosity about the world of our ancestors and an appreciation for trying to understand contemporary Western civilization within the broader context of human ‘history.’

 If you were to anamorph… I would anamorph into a bird of some sort.

What triggers your “aha” moment? Usually conversations with friends, often over a pitcher of beer.

 Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... Try to get out of bed as quickly as possible, otherwise I’m doomed.

Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? If I grow up, I would like to be the Derek Jeter of Mesoamerican archaeology.

What are some of the things happening in Yucatan that interest you as an artist? It’s too bad that a lot of small town markets are producing crafts specifically tailored for tourist consumption, but once in awhile you’ll still find a local artist in a small town producing art for the sake of making something beautiful and/or honoring ancestral traditions. When you come across something like that, it’s inspiring on multiple levels. It’s Ko’ox Boon’s support and recognition of the importance of indigenous, small-town community art that really makes me proud to contribute.

For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? For me the 50//50 project means the opportunity to connect with other artists and art consumers and help foster a greater appreciation for art and creativity that transcends boundaries – social, international, or what have you.

If I could could, I would I'd like to think I would.


Ken has worked with Ko'ox Boon in the past as a volunteer in Yaxhachen and as a media designer. And now, with a big hug, we welcome Ken to the 50//50 project. On December 11, you'll have the opportunity to buy a Seligson original! For more information on Ken's art, visit his account, where  he posts under the name "Sakbe," or email him at

Bienvenidos, Evan!


Evan Parker thinks slowly. His handwriting is bad, but he writes everything down. That's the way a good archaeologist works: detail-oriented, and mindful to a fault. Never quick to jump to conclusions, the archaeology reveals its secrets of human behavior slowly. Evan seeks to understand the way that artifacts interact with the built environment through close analysis of context---without the frame, the picture means nothing.

For seven years Evan worked at Escalera al Cielo in Kaxil Kiuic (located just a couple of kilometers from Yaxhachen, Ko'ox Boon's outreach community), answering questions concerning the fall of the ancient Maya civilization. Now, Evan is setting out on his dissertation research in the Anthropology program at Tulane University, where he will tackle "an awesome opportunity to work on the question as to how Maya civilization developed." He'll be digging a small, pre-classic site near Kiuic, called Paso del Macho. The site is thought to have been founded around 700 BC, which will take Evan more than a thousand years back in time from the archaeology he's always known, forcing him to explore questions he's always had. "Ideas about the origins of inequality have always fascinated me," Evan says, "and this project affords me my first opportunity to explore those ideas."

Beyond a professional commitment to archaeology, a profound investment in the local community driven by relationships with colleagues fuels Evan's connection with Yucatan. Friendship with the local community and a deep love for panuchos led to Evan's involvement with Ko'ox Boon.  Now, we welcome him to the team as a member of our Board of Directors, and we can't wait for you to get to know him as well as we do. Without further ado, here's sitting down with El Gusano, Evan Parker:

One road to drive down forever: I've got a real soft spot for any backcountry Mississippi road. Specifically Pike 93 Central in Pike County, MS.

Favorite Jackson restaurant? Cool Al's.

A metaphor for how you feel on Friday afternoons: A rubber band pulled to its maximum extent, waiting on the weekend for its release.

Your favorite art projects as a kid: Finger painting, I think it's so visceral.

Beer or wine? Beer, always beer. I'm not terribly picky either, but I think what I want to drink is largely driven by context. One of my favorite parts of working in Mexico is the beer. It's typically light, and a little skunky, but in the heat, it's absolutely perfect. Microbreweries are booming in Louisiana and Mississippi right now, and they understand what it takes to make a truly Southern beer. I feel like I can't capture the same experience with wine.

Name one experience that impacted you tangibly to become who you are today. I remember being a young boy and falling in love with the history of the American Civil War. I would read Civil War histories by the dozens. But one year I finally had the opportunity to visit the Vicksburg battlefield, and I think it was a formative experience for me. Being able to walk on the same ground as those soldiers and gaze upon their battlements and weapons made history so much more tangible to me. It's something that cannot be obtained from books alone. I think that experience laid the foundation for my interest in archaeology, a field of study so dependent upon space, place, and materiality.

If you were to anamorph… I've been told that my spirit animal is an iguana, so I suppose that's only appropriate.

What triggers your “aha” moment? Normally the only moments when people say they see me truly excited is when I have an "aha" moment, and it's typically followed by a torrent of manic explanations regarding my eureka moment. Typically these occur when I'm doing archaeology. Often the artifacts and architecture we're excavating can be baffling, but when the pieces click, and I understand a particular event or process that was occurring in prehistory, I get that "aha" moment.

Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... I typically moan, groan, and curse the heavens and the earth for making me get up. Then I make a coffee and read the Times Picayune, and that's when everything feels just right.

Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? Mr. Fred Rogers (host of the PBS show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood). I think the key to being a good human (and anthropologist) is the ability to empathize and love other people. Growing up and watching Mr. Rogers taught me quite a bit about empathy, and how we should all strive to understand and love others. He also believed that self-acceptance and loving yourself is an important key to happiness. Sometimes it can be tough to accept your shortcomings, but only after accepting your own faults can accept the faults of others.

How do you feel about the creative economy of Jackson? This is actually one of the things that I enjoy most about visiting Jackson after having graduated from Millsaps. Every year it seems like more artists and entrepreneurs are flocking to Jackson. Combine that with the rich artistic and musical heritage of the city, and I would say that the creative economy of Jackson is attracting people from around the country.

For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? Collaboration and exchange is one of the strengths of Ko'ox Boon. Developing connections between the local and the global promotes collaboration and exchange. Through 50/50, we can ensure that the creative economies of both Jackson and Yaxachen are supported. Considering I straddle both the local and the global, seeing a project like 50/50 becomes personally meaningful.

We look forward to moving onward and upward underneath your patient counsel, Evan!

Here's to painting the world together. Cheers!