Wow, I just realized I never posted the finished product! So here go you, a special commission for a friend:
I had the great pleasure of participating in a collaborative art installation for Dia de los Muertos this year. This was both an art installation and a sacred space for ceremony, prayer, and honoring our ancestors and loved ones.
I worked with two INCREDIBLE Brooklyn-based Latino artists, Adrian "Viajero" Roman and Borish. Viajero and Borish constructed a huge 8'x8' box and painted the outside of it like a dual-faced sugar skull. Using imagery of the Spanish conquest and indigenous symbols, the outside of the box told the story of Latin America's experience under colonization and the pride of our indigenous roots.
Inside, they created a beautiful altar where visitors placed photographs and offerings for their ancestors and loved ones who had passed.
I made a big piece for behind the altar of my grandmother who passed away last year. She's surrounded by Calla Lilies because she used to quote this line from a Katherine Hepburn movie to me all the time: "The Calla Lillies are in bloom again. Such a beautiful flower. So suitable for any occasion." And she would imitate Hepburn's accent and everything, I can still hear it. I thought it was so funny when I was little.
I also made the largest papel picado I have ever made: 8 foot tall curtains of skeletons wearing Taino cacique head dresses and surrounded by spider webs and flowers. Here I referenced traditional Mexican Dia de los Muertos and Taino imagery, combining two cultures that inspire my work.
One of my favorite aspects of the installation was an interactive element: the inside walls of the box were painted black so visitors could write messages to their dearly departed in chalk. It was a beautiful way for people to share their memories and love with each other.
It was a somewhat somber night. Visitors whispered around the altar, read each others' messages and added their offerings to the altar. I hope we do this collaboration again, it was a night full of love and healing across the planes.
Kai Margarida-Ramírez is an artist, specializing in paper cutting and embroidery. She is based in Brooklyn, New York, and is getting her MFA in Fine Arts at Parsons the New School for Design (hence her sporadic blogging since 2012).
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