Showing posts with label Dia de Muerto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dia de Muerto. Show all posts

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Wellspring of Inspiration


In our casa in the village of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, near Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, Amy and I have found solace, inspiration and a canvas for our artistic souls. We love our classic adobe home, surrounded by plants, fields and mountains, set in a typical Mexican community. 

We serve our neighbors by giving art lessons to children. We offer projects and teach skills, provide all the materials while including refreshments. Children go away happy and proud, taking with them their artwork to share with their family. 

Our quiet life allows us to immerse ourselves in the rhythms of this world while still offering the enchanting proximity to the vibrant heart of internationally acclaimed Oaxaca.

Two or three times a week, we embark on a short journey to the city. There we buy foods we cannot find in the village, visit a marvelous ex-pat lending library, buy art supplies, and purchase the best artisan breads and pastries at a popular bakery. Sometimes I stop to swim at Hotel Victoria where we bought a membership that gives us access to the pool. Amy relaxes under an umbrella and we share lunch.

I always carry my camera to find opportunities for street photography. 

Usually we come upon a celebration happening⏤with music and lively street performances. 

Oaxaca serves as a melting pot of creativity, where artists from different backgrounds converge to express themselves. Engaging with this artistic kaleidoscope fuels our imagination and provides fresh perspectives to infuse into our creations. Galleries showcase a diverse range of works, from traditional folk art to contemporary masterpieces. Furthermore, now we both are represented at one of the Oaxaca’s finest art venues: Cuatrosiete Galeria. They gave us an exclusive two person show during peak tourist time: this years Dia de Muertos celebration.

When we return to our rural village, I exclaim how exciting Oaxaca is. It is wellspring of inspiration for two artists like us. We carry home echoes of Oaxaca's vibrant cultural symphony. Our quiet life is a canvas onto which we paint the stories, colors, and melodies we've absorbed during our time on earth.

We now have a new website showcasing our Mexican inspired art: Dos Venados

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Gates of Awe


Every so often in life we have a profound experience that awakens our sleeping soul and opens the gates of awe. On November 4th, at the end of the annual Dia de Muerto, or Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, while Amy, her visiting sister Cari, and I were on our way home from Oaxaca we decided to stop at the cemetery in our village San Pedro Ixtlahuaca. The big gate was strewn with huge garlands of flowers as we walked into a sight that took my breath away. The entire graveyard had been cleaned and bouquets of flowers were everywhere⏤covering every grave. In all my life in the United States, I never saw anything like it. 

As I walked I was almost brought to tears noticing that all the graves had been commemorated with flowers. In death, all had been forgiven and redeemed and nobody forgotten; including those from the distant past. I intuitively knew that it goes beyond remembering only the illustrious or the well-known; here, every soul is embraced by the warmth of recollection. Even the graves of those who led troubled lives or are unknown to many, are not forgotten. 

By far, the most common flower is the marigold, known as “cempasúchil." In Mexico, they are not merely flowers; they are vibrant messengers bridging the gap between the living and departed. With golden hues seeming to echo the warmth of cherished memories, cempasúchil invite us to reflect on the interconnectedness of life and death. The air fills with their sweet aroma, supposedly to summon the spirits back to the world of the living. 

For someone from a culture where death is often treated with solemnity and separation, Dia de Muertos in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, serves as a gentle reminder that death, too, can be a celebration of life. A moment to acknowledge and honor those who came before us, recognizing the impact they had on our existence. 

In a world often quick to overlook the marginalized, I felt touched walking over the extensive grounds with graves spanning the centuries, witnessing universal remembrance.

A touching and humbling experience.

In the presence of the marigold-strewn graves, I realize that the Day of the Dead is not just about remembering the departed; it's about embracing the cycle of life with gratitude. San Pedro Ixtlahuaca has taught me that in remembrance, there is a timeless beauty that transcends borders—a beauty that invites us to celebrate the vast intricacies of the human experience, both in life and in death.

For an American like me, it's a privilege to witness the beauty of this tradition and be a part of it—a communal embrace of the past, a recognition of shared humanity, and a poignant reminder that, in the tapestry of life and death, every thread contributes to the richness of the whole.

Monday, November 06, 2023

Tapestry of Humanity


A week like no other . . . and to think⏤Amy’s sister arrived from Minnesota and experienced it with us. Cari arrived along with Dia de Muertos, an extraordinary week of color, tradition, and creativity. 

In the heart of Mexico amidst the vibrant streets of Oaxaca, Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time-honored tradition in Mexican culture, celebrating the lives of departed loved ones with colorful festivities and heartfelt remembrance.

The two sisters stayed in a nice hotel in the city for two nights as events ramped up. There is so much to entice the eye during the course of the holiday.  I always drive to town from our village every day to photograph.

We feel honored and bonded in our adopted community. Especially with the family of Mayolo Galindo, our neighbor who makes our tin frames. His wife Marta gave a cooking lesson in our home on making molé and traditional tamales. That evening we had a wonderful traditional tamale dinner to mark Cari´s birthday.

Every day and night are parades and celebrations. I threw myself in as much as possible to get photographs. A book of Dia de Muertos portraits will be forthcoming with one more year of picture taking.

This year we were honored that a premiere gallery rushed to take our work and highlight it as part of their offering for Dia De Muertos. They installed a grand ofrenda in the midst of our paintings. It was a surreal experience to see our art displayed alongside other talented artists, each piece telling a unique story of life, death, and the mystical in-between. We had hoped for such an outcome but had not expected. Then it suddenly occurred.
Memento Mori, by Steven Boone,  oil on linen, with tin frame by M. Galindo

The art gallery reception was warmly received. Many people stop to photograph our pieces and pose next to them.

Entre Culebras y Colibríes, by Amy Córdova Boone,  acrylic on canvas, with tin frame by M. Galindo

In the aftermath of Dia de Muertos, on November 4th as we drove home from the city, we stopped to walk in our village cemetery. I was moved that every grave in the large plot had flowers on it.

Because of a glitch in Cari´s flight home, she stayed an extra two days. We visited the largest tree on earth (in circumference) and drove 40 minutes to Tule to see the Tule tree. Another breathtaking experience in our panorama of experiences since she arrived. 

Cari discovered the true essence of Dia de Muertos – a celebration that transcends boundaries and connects us all in a beautiful tapestry of humanity. Today she arrived at the airport without delay and boarded for home, full of stories to tell.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Lo and Behold, Dia de Muertos

Dia de Muertos is so deeply embedded in the fabric of Oaxacan life, that the typical three days of commemoration from October 31 - November 2 is apparent everywhere throughout the year⏤mostly evident on walls that are painted with emblems. Living in our village of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, just outside of town, I have been deeply influenced in my own way, and expressed my feelings in a body of art that surprised me, and even more so, the people who have collected and watched my work over the years. I created a series of skeleton paintings. 

Viaje Final, oil on linen, 90x140 cm

While making these paintings, I had to admit it was not in any way a commercial venture. Even so, I harbored feelings of hope that these works were not for myself only, but would be received publicly somehow, someday. Lo and behold, our wonderful neighbor Mayolo who makes fabulous tin frames for Amy and I, went in to town smartphone in hand equipped with a screen to show off the website DosVenados I recently created for our Mexican art. Immediately he secured one of the best galleries in the city to show our work, called CuatroSiete Galeria. It happened so suddenly and amazingly, our paintings are already up on the walls and even figure prominently near the gallery grand “ofrenda”  the traditional altar, built to honor lost loved ones. People can walk in from the street to see it.
LA HERENCIA SAGRADA DE MADRE MAÍZ, Acrylic on canvas, 70x90 cm

Besides all the activity preparing our work for show, Amy’s sister arrived from Minneapolis to stay with us for nine days. 
Oaxacan days of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) are marked by a joyous and colorful revelry that engulfs the streets in a lively atmosphere. As the sun sets and darkness descends, the city comes alive with celebration that honors and remembers departed loved ones. Streets adorned with marigold flowers and flickering candles create a surreal, otherworldly ambiance.
For me, as a photographer it is thrilling to see such color and artistry. 

The three of us drive into the city every day and spend hours, witnessing parades, visiting ofrendas, walking the streets while mingling with crowds of people who most often have decorated themselves. The air is filled with the aroma of traditional Oaxacan cuisine, including the enticing scent of tamales and molé. Music echoes through the streets, featuring mariachi bands, folk musicians, and dancers, all contributing to the festive spirit.  

Tonight we will visit a cemetery where families gather to clean and decorate the graves of their ancestors, offering their favorite foods, drinks, flowers and mementos, and lighting candles.

In our home we have made our ofrenda and decorated it while offering prayers.

Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca is not just a celebration but a profound cultural and spiritual experience, where the boundaries between the living and the deceased blur, allowing for a heartfelt connection with those who have passed away. The streets of Oaxaca during these days are filled with love, laughter, and a profound sense of community, making it a truly unforgettable and magical celebration.

Amy and I are especially blessed this year to have our artwork accepted and honored in Oaxaca⏤in the spirit of Mexico and Dia de Muertos.

Sunday, February 06, 2022

Inside Your Darkest Everything

It started a couple of years ago when I made an oil painting of a young Frida Kahlo,_(Mexican,-6 July 1907 – 13 July 1954)with a skeleton whispering in her ear and wrapping his arm around her shoulder. I copied her own self-portraither first of many, then added a skeleton and a quote of hers: “I want to be inside your darkest everything.” I have tried my hand at painting skeletons and find that I like it. 

Amy and I have lived in our home in Oaxaca, Mexico going on one year. There are many festivities during the year, but undoubtedly the biggest, most famous, is Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, that occurs at the beginning of February. Significantly it is time for prayer and remembrance of friends and family members who have died. Its universally observed in Mexico, but also regions with large Mexican populations. In Oaxaca, skeletons and skulls are widely depicted as emblems of death and afterlife, and can be seen year around on walls.

This past year, as Dia de Muertos approached, I had an idea for a painting with skulls. With a bit of trepidation I began work on it. After overcoming some negative emotions, I continued until it was finished. Standing back, I liked it very much and determined not to sell it. It is called "Memento Mori", meaning an object serving as a warning or reminder of death, such as a skull.
My neighbor Mayolo stepped into the picture when he made a fantastic tin frame for me, complete with skulls, crossbones and roses. 
Recently Mayolo made another masterpiece frame for my next muerto painting. It has sculptures and engravings with incredible filigree work in tin. At the top are two miniature violins with exquisite detail.

It seems I am in a process of making a series of muerto paintings.
The one to the left is my latest and almost finished. Many ideas come to me. 

Twenty one years ago my daughter died of cancer. It has taken me this long to make a painting that includes death as protagonist.