Friday, May 21, 2010

October (dios de los muertos) in March...

     First, I am sorry I haven't posted for the better part of 3 weeks.  I been busy READING for a change.  First I bought the new extended version of Rob Brezsny's book Pronoia.  Then last Saturday I was at the Barnes and Noble fundraiser for MECCA and the only copy of Michael DeMeng's new book was just begging me to buy it.  (Personally I think Michael put a spell on it but that's a whole other story).

And, on top of reading I have been working on a new piece.
     After going to Oaxaca for Dios de Los Muertos last year with Michael and a group of amazing people from all over the country my art (and my beliefs about death) will never be the same.
     In the Mexican culture (at least in Oaxaca) there are two days every year that our dearly beloved dead ones come back to party with the living.  On November 1st the babies and young children come back.  On November 2nd the adults return.  Having lived in San Fransisco for many years with it's large and politically active Hispanic community, I was already familiar with the Day of the Dead and longed to go to Mexico to experience a real Dios de Los Muertos.   Thus I already had a pretty good collection of Day of the Dead skeletons.
          I got this beautiful lady from a fellow who is from Oaxaca but now has a shop in Albany on Solano Blvd.  I pretty much knew when I bought her that for the first time I had no excuse not to go.  So I went.  (If you been reading my blog all along you already know all this....sorry for the repeat but bare with me...)
     That said, I am writing you today to give you a glimpse of what I been working on in the last few months.   It started with a single striking image I saw in Oaxaca.  A half alive and half dead Frida.
     This is not a very good reproduction of the image that has changed me in ways I may never be able to fully articulate.  Of course I love Frida (like everybody else).  She's practically a saint in Mexico. But what struck me was the portrayal of her as half dead and half alive.  Here in the rational northern portion of the Americas there just isn't a place for a reality like this.  In Mexico, magical realism and all it's various cousins are not only alive but thriving.  Frida can be physically dead but her soul lives on forever in the hearts of the Mexican people who love her.   I experienced this again and again while I was down there.
     Having had my own near death experience I knew I had to make a piece of myself, half dead or dying and the other half coming to life.  (Pretty much what has been going on since the brain injury).  I also wanted it to be 3 dimensional. 
     My friend Rogene who I met just a week before I went to Mexico (she was going too) has been working with paper clay making her paintings more 3 dimensional.  The moment I saw her work I knew that was the medium I wanted to try for my piece.
    I also wanted some of the other art in my Day of the Dead collection to influence this piece.  
     I love the floral painting on this vase I bought years ago at the Castro St. Fair.  I also love the flower bursting forth from the eye.
       The picture of this skull was shot through a window so it's not great.  I wanted it so bad but it was carved out of wood and hand painted and way out of my price range.  Alas I came home with a not so great picture of it.  I love all the monarch butterflies.  Is it all the bright colors used by the Mexican artisans that keeps their skulls looking so friendly?   That and all those big shiny white teeth?  It's as if dead people in Mexico are always laughing.
    For my piece I was pretty sure I wanted to use a huge cigar box I scored in Amsterdam.  Opened, it has a book like quality to it.  And that would mean one half would be for the skull and the other half for something else.  But what would be on the other side?   And are all those weird white flowers really necessary?
     It was probably the cover of Rob's book that had me thinking about anatomically correct hearts.  Or perhaps it was the aftermath of the Valentine's show and working with the Americanized version of hearts for what seemed like an eternity.
     Either way last Thursday, sick and tired of the rain, I drove 100 miles as drops the size of golf balls bounced off my windshield to get to my favorite bookstore, Powell's in Portland.  Once there I went to the anatomy section and took several pictures of anatomically correct hearts.  Here's what I got...

The piece is coming along slowly but surely and once I get it done you'll be the first to know...
 Thanks for reading my friends and your comments are always welcome.... and yes I am going back to Oaxaca again this year for Dios de Los Muertos.  And I may just stay a little longer to learn some Spanish.   Who knows..  Here's a few more hearts for you to ponder..


  1. Beautiful post, Yona! In my tradition, we invite our departed souls to visit on Nov. 1st...some prepare a dumb dinner, with no speaking and place settings for all visitors. I prefer to chat in my own way, so I call down a sacred staircase, invite my loved ones, sing and dance and enjoy their is a blessing when the living and the departed join again in celebration...I look forward to seeing your wonderful art soon! xoxo

  2. Yo, thanx for sharing your journey with us! I'm anxious to see your piece now. XO

  3. thank you both.. i love that vickie... a sacred staircase, what great imagery...
    yes this piece is taking lots of work but since it doesn't have to be done until august i am going slow.... bit by bit she is coming to life/death and the many points inbetween.. i so appreciate your comments... xoyo

  4. What a great post - so nice to see the images that are influencing your piece & to see its current stage. I'm looking forward to its continued development. And it will be interesting to see how this year's Oxaca trip impacts you. Thanks for sharing.