Saturday, October 18, 2014

Frida Kahlo Shrine

The last few night I have been working on an ofrenda, or rather, it is supposed to be an ofrenda, but it is really closer to a shrine or an alter. You see, ofrenda are small shrines that are created to honor the dead. They contain a picture of the person being honored, a small collection of things they liked, or that represented them, and things to represent the four elements of the earth, namely a bowl of water (to quench the soul's thrust after such a long journey), a candle (fire to represent celebration and new life), tissue paper banners or flowers (to represent wind) and food (to represent the earth and the nourishment it gives us). There are also usually marigolds for beauty and the strong scent that will help the souls find their way back home.

I am making my shrine to honor Frida Kahlo because I admire the strength of who I think she was and how strong her spirit is. I considered making the shrine for my grandmother or my mother-in-law, whom I loved deeply, but this manner of honor is too flashy and public for both of them. I considered making it for the pets we've had in the past who were so important to me, but how could I pick just one, or risk not including another? Besides, there is already one for a woman's beloved dog who died a while back.
This project is in response to a call for entries for ofrendas. When I was at Two Hands last week Casey mentioned that she was sure I had no lack of ideas and that perhaps I would make the time to create an ofrenda in response to their call. I was very pleased and complimented by this comment and so I set my mind to see what I could come up with. I did have many ideas that were all fun, but vague. The ideas became more clear once I began to gather my stuff. I picked up an old, sort of yucky shadow box that had housed samples of legumes as a kitchen decoration. I had wanted a house figure, but all that I could find were either too big, too cutsie or too hard to modify. I also had wanted to make the alter out of tin, but I could not find tin for an art project anywhere (though one person suggested that I get roof flashing. I will keep this in mind for next time). I had also imagined that my shrine might have wings or a heart with barbed wire and flames as those are traditional images, but that is not what came forth. Since I could not find tin, I cut up an aluminium tray that I got from the dollar store. I used beads that I had from a grab bag and beads that I bought just because they pleased me. And I chose a picture of Frida who was laughing and happy on some sunny afternoon. I liked the light her joy put off. I tinted that image in places with markers.

At one point I asked Ellie for her advice on a few ideas that I had. She, being insightful and artistic, had wonderful suggestions that felt just right even as she explained them to me. I am so thankful for her and her ideas. She in turn thanked me for caring what she thought. "Of course I care what you think," I replied softly. Part of me was trying to push myself to include all of the traditional elements that are expected to be found in an ofrenda, but that felt strained. Ellie told me that she thinks I can win. I, of course, love that she thinks that. It would certainly be fun if I won, but I really did it to push myself outside of the "regular art I usually create." And my, am I ever enjoying it. I would not want to do this kind of art all of the time. It would become too blingy, but once in a while is a blast. So, I will finish my piece, deliver it to Two Hands and see what comes of that.

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