Because..why not? Actually, that’s not why. Here’s why…
First of all, do you know what ‘Day of the Dead’ is?
In brief, the ‘Day of the Dead’ is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures on November 1st and 2nd (in connection with ‘All Saints Day’). Obviously ‘Day of the Dead’ is the English translation, the real name is ‘Dia de los Muertos’. On this holiday family and friends gather to pray for, honor, and remember those who have died. There are many traditions associated with this day, but one of the main traditions include building private altars honoring the dead using sugar skulls, marigolds, favorite foods and beverages, and possessions of the deceased. Oftentimes they visit the graves with these gifts as well.
Anywho, a blogger friend of ours Kara Jones aka Mother Henna announced she was having a ‘Day of the Dead HeART Trade’, which works like this: 20 artists sign up to create 20 ‘Day of the Dead’ themed works of art. The artists mail their work back to Mother Henna who will then sort the art and send contributing artist one piece of said artwork from each artist (1 piece of artwork x 20 artist = 20 pieces of artwork). Make sense?!?!?!
Well, you know Litsa and I are over the moon about grief and creativity so obviously we had to sign up! I mean really, what could go wrong?
Yeah…turns out a lot. You know Litsa, me, crafting, and deadlines…we actually don’t mix. Never have. Probably never will. Of course we struggled to find inspiration and this led to procrastination x 30. When we finally decided on a concept it was the 11th hour and we could tell execution was going to require some pretty solid crafting skills.
Our Inspiration: We’ve referenced late artist Lauren Simonutti here on the blog before. She was a photographer who suffered from Bipolar with Schizoaffective disorder and lived as a recluse in her Baltimore row home. She lived her last years in essential isolation, a lifestyle which forced her to turn the camera on herself yet allowed her to create some incredibly haunting self-portraits. She did lead a somewhat active life online sharing her photos through her blog among other platforms and selling handmade books. Lauren died in April of 2012 “from complications of her illness”. Since her death Litsa has kept an occassional eye on her deserted house and we have, on more than one occasion, pondered what will become of her home, her artwork, and all her other belongings.
Naturally I’m telling you all this because Litsa and I decided to build a ‘Day of the Dead’ altar for Lauren Simonutti and then to photograph it for the ‘art trade’ before finally leaving it on her front doorstep. Naturally.
The Process: We set out to build the altar on a Sunday in my backyard. As Litsa and I headed out to Lowes and Michaels Arts and Crafts we brainstormed ideas. We had printed a few of Lauren’s photographs and we had some candles, a crate, salt, and some water. We lamented the fact that we didn’t have any of her belongings but joked that because she liked ‘found objects’ we ought to go dumpster diving and find something cool to incorporate.
First stop, Lowes for Marigold-ish flowers. Next stop, Michaels Arts and Crafts. Holy cow, is that a bird bath/found object sitting right in the middle of the parking lot?!? Let’s just pop that in the trunk of Litsa’s car.
Now for the construction:
Alright, time to photograph our masterpiece.
Now to leave the altar at Lauren’s home.
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