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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Day of the Dead Altar I

Creating an Altar for Day of the Dead

Image result for day of the dead


When I was approached last year and asked if I would be interested in creating an altar for the Day of the Dead celebration at the Palm Springs Art Museum, I jumped in with both feet.  To begin with, this historically Mexican holiday has always intrigued me,  I could not possibly refuse to represent the Artists' Council , and the opportunity to exhibit in this beautiful museum is always greeted with open arms.   Plus the positive twist on death, honoring the deceased by celebrating their lives year after year holds tremendous appeal for me.

Image result for day of the dead altar
Example of an altar

  The inviter mentioned my Indian Women Portraits and that it might be nice to utilize one of these paintings in the altar.As it turns out, the museum is hosting an exhibition titled Grass Roots: Native American Basketry of the West that opened this month.  Actual baskets woven by Native women of the Coachella Valley are included in the exhibition, including some by Guadalupe Arenas. What a synchronous  connection!  My creative thoughts began to race and explode!

Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver
48 x 48


This was perfect, a bit out of the box thinking, the kind of thing I respond to.  Breaking from the traditional Mexican altar, this altar would honor a deceased basket maker, Guadalupe Arenas,  who was a member of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, local to the Coachella Valley where Palm Springs is located.  It would bring awareness to Arenas and other women of the valley who toiled endlessly to create amazingly spectacular baskets.

Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver
48 x48


I decided to approach this project like a painting, focusing on composition, color, line, texture.  Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver, the painting, would be the focus of the altar. Every other element of the altar would pertain to and relate to this work of art, so I began to visualize and sketch ideas.

Proposed Altar

This altar will have traditional items such as skulls, photographs, flowers, and candles, but they will not be presented in the traditional way.  This altar will follow the palette of the painting using pink, purple, blue, green, golds. Lizard and eagle shapes will be cut out of canvas, rocks and small paintings of cactus will represent the desert, snake skins will festoon and drape to symbolize the snakes woven into baskets created by Guadalupe Arenas.  The work begins:

Cutting eagle shapes from canvas.

Using the stencils used to create the painting.

Canvas lizards.

The altar is beginning to go together in my studio and this is the first of several posts that will document the creation and assembly.  It will then be broken down and reassembled in the Palm Springs Art Museum later in October where it will remain on view into November.  Mark your calendars for the museum celebration October 30 10:00 to 4:00.

Much more work to accomplish and explain which I will do as it happens.

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