Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maude Kerns - Dia de los Muertos

The observance of El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) dates from pre-Columbian times. It is believed by many that this is the time when those who have passed away are allowed to return to earth to visit with their families and friends.
The most important manifestations of this holiday are the ofrendas, or altars made of offerings, created in homes, businesses and public places.
The altars honor the dead to assure the continuity of life. In the Mexican tradition, those who are dead provide the necessary connection between the living and God and the Saints.
El Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico by decorating shop windows, cleaning and decorating the cemetery, creating special fantastic flower wreaths, making small and large toys.

Special dishes are cooked for the ofrendas, and are usually offered to both living and dead friends and relatives who visit. The celebration is often called Los Dias de los Muertos because two important days are recognized.
Since the event is celebrated at Maude Kerns Art Center every year is is also filled with art of all kinds.

Some of the mini shrines are shadow boxes like the one above and more to come later.

Dia de los Muertos celebrates to special days, November 1, All Saints' Day devoted to los angelitos (little children), and November 2, All Souls' Day, devoted to adults as well.
El Día de Los Muertos originated in Mexico, before the Spanish conquest. The exact date is unknown but it has been speculated that the idea originated with the Olmecs, possibly as long as 3000 years ago.

Following the Spanish conquest of Mexico during the 16th century, there was a strong effort to convert the native population to Catholicism. There was a good deal of reluctance on the part of the indigenous people which resulted in a blending of old customs with the new religion. All Saints' Day and All Hallows Eve (Halloween) roughly coincided with the preexisting Día de los Muertos resulting in the present day event which draws from both.

Although the skeleton is a strong symbol for both Halloween and Días de los Muertos, the meaning is very different. For Días de los Muertos the skeleton represents the dead playfully mimicking the living and is not a macabre symbol at all.

A sweet bread, pan de muerto, with decorations representing bones of the deceased is very popular as are sugar skulls. [see recipe for sugar skulls

 All sorts of art objects and toys which symbolically represent death in some way are created and marketed. This gives the economy a boost in much the same way as our Christmas season does. 

The intriguing thing about the celebration is the juxtaposition of ancient tradition and current depictions like this four panel painting.
Then there were the shadow boxes that are like mini shrines...

... they are ornate....
... they are clever...

... they express fond memories of those lost ...

...and some are just too precious for words.

I particularly liked this painting by Anthony Hensley titled "Reina Queen" an oil on canvas and a steal at $350. 
I also loved the crow series by Kris Hurwit starting with "Dancing with the Crows" another oil on canvas ...
... and another titled "Forgetting Manners" then ...

... there was "It's Just a bowl of Cherries"

There is always a tribute to Maude Kerns the artist.

She was an American artist. born in 1876 in Portland, Oregon, where she was raised by her pioneer parents. After high school, she graduated from the University of Oregon, the California School of Fine Arts and later Columbia University.

Some of the more simple pieces I found to be marvelous were this piece by Cenya Eichengreen titled "The Grand Mothers...

...and this shadow box within a book by Robin Bachtler Cushman called Renascence, very imaginative.

A large painting by Anthony Hensley was "Saint of the Harvest Festival Games" simply great.

Richard Cutshal gave us "Redemption, Salvation, Forgiveness"
The Altar
Before Dia de los Muertos, an area of the house is cleaned up and the furniture removed to make room for the altar. The altar consists at a minimum of a covered table, and usually a few crates or boxes are added to it and covered to create open shelves and other raised display areas. The coverings used can vary from plain to vibrantly colored oil cloth. The altar is then set up with the appropriate ofrendas (offerings), in this case oranges, for Dia de los Muertos.
There are many great art pieces dedicated to loved ones...
...and the alters at Maude Kerns are beautiful.

At the opening of the Dia del los Muertos dancers come in costume...

... and many, but not all are children proud of their tradition and beautifully adorned in traditional dress.

 The music is wonderful and full of trumpets and guitars unfortunately I had to leave before the dancing which I really love.

The variety of alters is amazing and yet they all complete a picture of colorful insight into the meaning of the celebration of individual differences.

Some of the artistic crafts are amazingly simple...

...and yet dramatically emotional.

Some of the simple figures are sold and are part of the tradition/// from sombreroed skulls...

... to puppet skeletons...

... to winged hearts ...

... and more skulls.

Love among the dead as if they continued romance in their next life. It is fitting we see the dead as alive in the next life and as normal as the living.

I saw this painting on the side of the Maude Kerns Art Center and discovered it was a paint test. Benjamin Moore is dedicating paint to restore and renovate the center to become weather proofed and have a more appealing appearance...

The rendering of the revamped center is  wonderful and will keep the building in good shape for the future. The center is appealing for help and if you can donate toward this end it would be most appreciated by our community and provide a great place to show, teach and support the arts. For more information go to Maude Kerns Art Center website

Quote of the Day ~
 I can see lights in the distance Trembling in the dark cloak of night Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing A waltz on All Souls Night. ~ Loreena McKennitt

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©Paul Viel