What is 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.
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.
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