This past year I participated in the Dia de los Muertos show again at the Richard App Gallery. I presented twelve small alabastrite calaveras as well as three painted deer skulls.
Painting the calaveras this year presented new challenges for me artistically as well as resulting in some new discoveries. This time around I drew more upon my cultural
heritage and upbringing more than ever before. It was inspiring to look back at my own ancestries and see the seeds of their teaching and beliefs as passed down through my family, and viewed through my own interpretations.
This process pushed me beyond the beauty of Dia de los Muertos and into new territory. The act of painting skulls started last years as a form of active mourning and helped me process some grief that was untouchable in any other way. But returning to them this year, I found I had a different set of tools, a new understanding and language of what I wanted to say and what they mean to me.
In our culture, we run from the idea of Death. So much so that as a society we tend to marginalize our elderly, sequestering them away into care facilitates and visiting on special occasions. We no longer honor the wisdom of our elders, we instead celebrate youth and the naiveté that it brings with it. All phases of life deserve to be celebrated! But in our reticence to acknowledge death as the inevitable swan song of life, we have demonized it, relegating all things that we perceive pertaining to death as creepy, morbid, or macabre. This could not be more true with the skull. We tend to look at the skull as a symbol of death. But think about this, your skull is as much a part of your body as your heart or your skin. It protects yours brain. We’ve glamorized the heart, associating it with love and tenderness. But shun the skull.
So for me, painting the skulls has come to reference something more than death. It has come to mean life. There are an infinite number of facts and feeling that make up the human experience and we process them in a number of ways, and one of the predominate ways (for better or worse) is with the mind. If the skull is viewed from another direction, this iconic image is as much about life as it is death, and that is exactly what it has come to mean to me…