Ofrendas sometimes called altares or altars are part of Día de los Muertos [Day of the Dead] celebrations. Taos artist and gallery owner Máye Torres has curated ...
Ofrendas sometimes called altares or altars are part of Día de los Muertos [Day of the Dead] celebrations. Taos artist and gallery owner Máye Torres has curated an intriguing show of altars created by seven local artists inspired by this theme “Ofrendas” at the Encore Gallery at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
The seven artists are Alex Chavez, Juanita Jaramillo-Lavadie, Ginger Mongiello, Toby Morfin, Katie Woodall and Taos Charter School, Guillermo Rosette and Máye Torres. I asked three of the artists, Woodall, Jaramillo-Lavadie and Mongiello, what inspired their altars and what the process felt like.
What was your inspiration?
Katie Woodall: I have been learning about symbiosis and the long and amazing path of chemical, biological, exploratory genius that our ancestral earth’s life forms have taken. I feel we are part of this composite expression and all these organisms in play inside our body systems. I do altars to realign with and reorganize connections.
Juanita Jaramillo-Lavadie: The weaving represents a cooperative spirit of shared work. The title says it, “Hundreds of Hands.” There were people at the opening reception who remembered taking part in starting the weaving. The four elements added a cosmology connection.
Ginger Mongiello: The painting I made for this show was done with old worn-out mops which make amazing marks. I wanted to create a sense of energy rising in a transformed state as in death. The white porcelain eggshell-like pieces below the painting are part of a series I did using translucent porcelain. They have always had the feeling, to me, of something that has just been released and vanished. Thus the title “Spirit Rises.”
What was your process?
Woodall: I loved this process, a nonspecified opportunity to express everything I have absorbed through various kinds of ritual intent. To me an ofrenda is meant to build a site of welcome. I began by looking around at my ritual objects, studio stashes, yard and gardens, symbols, shells, feathers, elements, fabric, paper, pressed and preserved beauty, special images I have saved. We grew the marigolds in our soil, golden pollen and seeds from everywhere, wasp nest and honeycomb wax from close by. The gathering part is easy and fun, anything might be just the right thing. But then, the next part is more intricate and requires experiment. How to cluster, emphasize, balance on each layer the earth on bottom, then add water, fire and air? And then there is space, the fifth element. I asked myself, do I have any images, notes I have already made that can help strengthen a section? Which shape or structure goes where? Does it need to be painted a different color? What kind of object is it, does it belong with the freshwater artifacts, or the ocean ones? How can I talk about algae, fungi, microorganisms, the eukaryote leap from a single organism to an organism with a brain? What living thing can I put on the altar that will continue to evolve the whole six weeks of the show? The filtering out of what is not right goes on and on in stages. It then it rings with clarity. There’s a sensation of alignment with value and vertical stack that makes a feeling in one’s own body, like a purification. It’s a homa, a stupa, a dedication, a vase – unobstructed where the message gets through.
Jaramillo-Lavadie: It was about sharing information and working in collaboration. I taught my helpers how to make the rope with the spinners. My helpers taught many volunteers to make rope and the space in the park got used up. Volunteers pulled in friends to help them spin. Lengths of cloth strips would be anywhere from 40 to 80 feet long. Many people learned that they could make rope. We used up all the rags, but only one-third of the ropes were used for this weaving on display. Rag rope was made on the spot with whoever had the energy to try making a rope with these five cool spinners. When we had enough rope spun, we used volunteers to keep the foundation rope web taut. Once the “spokes” of the weaving were stabilized, different people wove into the web. Which was tied up when we ran out of time.
Mongiello: I used acrylic on canvas, assorted natural objects, and slip-cast porcelain. I enjoyed the process very much.
"Ofrendas" is on view now through Nov. 17 and is free. For more information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052.
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