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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Day of the Dead V

Altar Installed

The Palm Springs Art Museum is a stately, modern building which houses an extensive permanent collection as well as featuring rotating exhibitions of note.  What an honor and delight to have been asked to create and install an altar for their Day of the Dead celebration.  And installed it is.

Altar honoring Guadalupe Arenas installed in Palm Springs Art Museum

The design and construction of this altar is meant to honor the tribal women, who were basket weavers and members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The focal point of the altar consists of the painting, Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver, by Pamela Hunt Lee, representing Arenas who lived and worked in the Coachella Valley during the late 1800’s into the mid 1900’s.  



Included on the altar are photos of other basket weavers, including Delores Patencio, who created utilitarian vessels and eventually baskets sought after by collectors during the early 20th century and what was known as the Curio Trade.  Arenas and her counter parts lived in harsh desert conditions, creating beautiful vessels, a craft handed down from mother to daughter.  In the painting, Guadalupe Arenas is shown surrounded by design elements used in her weaving.  The composition of strangling snakes, her serious look and the palette are symbols of a life led in harsh conditions while creating spectacular baskets. 



The museum’s current exhibition, Grass Roots: Native American Basketry of the West, displays several of the baskets created by Guadalupe Arenas, Delores Patencio and their contemporaries.



All vessels on and around the altar are baskets, some filled with plants symbolizing juncus, sumac and deer grass laboriously collected, prepared and used to weave baskets.  Rocks collected from the desert and small paintings of cactus symbolize the arid environment.  Photographs of Guadalupe Arenas, Delores Patencio and others honor these basket weavers. 



This altar will reside in the Museum through Day of the Dead Celebration on Sunday, October 30, 10-5.  Hope you will join me at the celebration.

To contact me click HERE
To visit my web site click HERE

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Day of the Dead Altar IV

The Altar is Almost Complete.


More work on the altar is bringing it close to completion. The cut out shapes of eagles, snakes and lizards have been painted to match those in the painting which is the back drop and focal point of the altar.

Painting the eagle shapes.



An adventure into the desert provided a variety of rocks which now fill the baskets sitting on the altar and symbolize the desert in which these basket weavers lived.


Rock filled baskets.


Additional small canvas board paintings were created and now join the other small cactus paintings on the altar providing symbolism of desert plants.

Altar Cactus
8 x10

Pink Barrels
5 x 7


The altar is almost complete, ready for installation. The various components have been assembled and the altar set up in my studio.  Now it will be deconstructed, boxed, made ready to be moved to the Palm Springs Art Museum.


Photos of Coachella Valley Basket Weavers
Detail of Altar


The Palm Springs Art Museum is hosting a Day of the Dead celebration, Sunday, October 30, 10-5.  This altar, honoring Guadalupe Arenas and other indigenous basket weavers of the Coachella Valley will be on display.  Hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Day of the Dead Altar III

What is Day of the Dead?

Image result for day of the dead

A few nights ago I was asked by a friend, 'what's going on in your studio?"  I launched into an enthusiastic description of the altar I am creating for Day of the Dead at the Palm Springs Art Museum and after quite a monologue she asked another question, " What is Day of the Dead?"

sketch of the altar 


Interesting question, and one I thought I would answer here. Day of the Dead is a multi day, Mexican holiday that focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.  It is Dia de los Muertos. Among traditions connected with the holiday is the building of private altars honoring the dead, and the Palm Springs Art Museum celebrates the holiday annually with a few altars scattered through out the museum.  I have been asked, by the Artists Council of the museum to construct an altar.  Typically skulls, marigolds, favorite foods and beverages of the deceased are on placed on the altars.  

Image result for day of the dead  A typical altar

If you follow this blog, you know that the altar I am building is not necessarily typical;  no marigolds, no foods. It does, however, have skulls, flowers and decorations that pay homage to Guadalupe Arenas and other native basket weavers who lived mid 1800's to mid 1900's and whose baskets are revered and collected today. The women to whom the altar is dedicated lived in the Coachella Valley, location of Palm Springs.  

Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver
48 x48 original acrylic painting
This painting is the basis, background and inspiration for the altar.

Items on the altar consist of design elements in the painting such as the lizards, eagles and snakes. These are also some of what was used as designs in the baskets created by these women.

Lizards, before they have been painted, crawling up and over the flowers.

Eagles, before they have been painted, flying up the altar and over the baskets.

Snake skins cascading and undulating over the altar.

Small desert plant paintings that will be displayed on the altar to represent the desert environment.



The altar is under construction, and continues to be a creative endeavor for me.  There is more to do to accomplish the completion and install the altar on October 23rd in the Palm Springs Art Museum. There is also a Day of the Dead Celebration in the museum on October 30, 10-4.  Hope to see you there.

To contact me click HERE
To visit my web site click HERE






Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Day of the Dead Altar II

This Requires Some Shopping.


Sketch of Proposed Altar


Though I inventory loads of STUFF in my studio, the creation of an altar for Day of the Dead at the Palm Springs Art Museum requires some shopping.  After visualizing and sketching the design it was apparent I needed to make forays into the land of retail. Some of my ideas call for items I just don't keep around, and restrictions required by the museum dictate dried and imitation materials which mean: Retail therapy time!!!


First stop....computer,  for some on line sourcing of snake skins, because baskets woven by Arenas frequently incorporated snake designs. You remember I am creating an altar to honor and bring homage to Guadalupe Arenas, member of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians who was a basket weaver.



Though this altar will not be typical, it will have skulls which were purchased on line. 



This retail shopping was frequently spontaneous, purchases made on a whim.  I felt like I was being guided, allowing unexpected items to catch my attention and find their place in the shopping cart.  Amazing that I found this bird skeleton to represent the eagle theme found on baskets woven by Guadalupe Arenas.




Second stop....several shops for basket and floral needs. This altar should have plant materials that represent the plants collected and used in the basket weaving process, and I was able to find fabulous paper, dried and imitation floral goods in the desired palette.



An unplanned stop yielded two stately candelabra.



Then back to the computer for frames and photos of women who lived in the Coachella Valley during the late 1800's - mid 1900's, basket weavers.  Oh, these beautiful faces.



Next I begin to assemble the altar in my studio so it can be fine tuned remembering to follow my desire to create, not only an altar to Guadalupe Arenas and her fellow basket weavers but a work of art following ideas of composition, line, texture, color.   Check back to see the progress.

Mark your calendars for the Day of the Dead celebration at the Palm Springs Art Museum on October 30,  10:00 - 4:00.

To contact me click HERE
To visit my web site click HERE