Monday, September 24, 2007

Dia de los Muertos

The other day one of the students was looking at my work and then noticed the skulls I made for Day of the Dead. The reaction went something like: "OH, these are going to give me nightmares tonight." and a few other similar comments.

I immediately found myself responding, saying that Day of the Dead is not meant to be scary, but is a time of celebration. I have to admit I felt sort of defensive.

Later I remembered my own experience with Day of the Dead skull work.

About 3 or 4 years ago, I had visited a local shop called Pura Vida and saw the Dia de los Muertos figurines and artwork and felt like they were voodoo things or something weird. Really perplexed and not understanding them at all. Felt quite uneasy with them actually!!

When a couple years ago my brother died, that event significantly changed my relationship with death. So early winter or early this year, I had stopped by the shop again and saw those figurines. Well this time I was fascinated. And actually purchased a skull bracelet.

Well, I was inspired too because next thing I knew I was pinching out all these Dia de los Muertos skulls at the studio (people at the studio who did not know, were asking me if I was alright!!!) And I did a ton of research on the web and the more I learned the more I felt that this was an awesome tradition and festival. It has been significant and healing for me to discover the meanings and history of Dia de los Muertos.

Earlier today I was listening to Eckhart Tolle, and he said something that furthered my connection to Dia de los Muertos
...when culture denies becomes shallow and superficial....When death is denied, life loses its depth. the possibility of knowing who we are beyond name and form, the dimension of transcendent, disappears from our lives because death is the opening of that dimension.

I have felt such a connection to Day of the Dead because I love that is a part of the culture, a regular annual event. How they embrace it: life and death together. A time to celebrate and honor our ancestors and those we have lost now. Integrated into the culture.

My experience of death in this culture has been quite different, I have felt like there is no acceptable place after the funeral to express and explore feelings. Sure there are groups...but that too is segregated and not a time necessarily of celebration or remembering. So I feel a huge disconnect from everyone. the skulls provide a place to reconnect, and an opportunity to engage with death, bring it back to our culture....not as morbid or scary, but as celebratory, a part of life.
Tonight, I will be completing the skulls too with a new approach to their surface design. No more having to paint inside the lines. See post September 20th.


Jen Mecca said...

When it comes to creating things that are a part of you, after a while you learn to let comments about your "art" roll off your back like a duck. Its one of the hardest things to learn and get use to. Someone always has some comment that you just say to yourself...."what the _____"!

( I think the skulls are cool).J

Elaine Spallone said...

It IS Hard!!! Thank you for comment and insight. I do not know what I find harder, the comment or the silence of no comment - but I am sure with both I have let it slide...

Anonymous said...

Hey Elaine ... Love the snyergy of the butterflies and the skulls... I think you have found a profound connection between them

Dani and Tonka said...

Elain are you going to the day of the dead festival on Sunday.

I may go! I was glad to find someone here in charlotte who loves Dia De Los Muertos as much as I do.