Using el Día de los Muertos/the Day of the Dead ritual as a starting point, the exhibition is centered on the fundamental struggle of human existence—mortality—and embracing the inseparable nature of life and death. From the traditional beliefs and Day of the Dead rituals of the indigenous people of Mexico to modern perceptions of the afterlife, all of the works in the exhibition feature artists working in traditional and contemporary styles, celebrating the wonder of life and honoring those who have departed.
The show will have traditional Day of the Dead constructions including an altar by artist Jennifer Cross of the Ross School with work by her High School Drawing Class, an altar with talisman figures made by Jon Snow of Hayground School and his students, aged 6-13, as well as a variety of folk art and crafts from Mexico.
In complement to traditional work, the exhibition features a body of encaustic paintings by artist Martha Stotzky and interpretations of the theme in the form of paintings, photography and video by East End artists Louise Green, Marie Maciak, Alexis Martino, Harald Olson, Kerry Sharkey-Miller and others. The show also includes a collection of pewter jewelry by New Mexico artist and designer Alice Seely.
Martha Stotzky has been engaged with art for over 25 years, first as an art historian, and then as an artist. She has spent many years as an educator—teaching art, art history, and comparative religion and currently develops school programs at The Parrish Art Museum.
Stotzky’s work reflects her interest in how emotions are manifested through gestures and expressions. The particular body of work featured in ‘Milagros and Memory’ stems from her interest in Medieval art and the art of Mexico and Ethiopia, in which angels and saints play a significant role. Angels have long been represented in art and literature as intermediaries between humans and the divine. They are often depicted as rather aloof messengers, observing rather than reacting to human activity. The angels in Stotzky’s paintings, however, are not mere on-lookers, but empathetic commentators on the actions of humans and of world events. The saint figures are meant to embody universal human struggles, rather than to represent particular saints. Outrage, worry, detachment, grief, and shock are among the emotions reflected in her works.
Jennifer Cross is an East End painter and art teacher who currently serves as the Chair of Visual Art at Ross School. She is the recipient of a New York Foundation for Arts Grant for Painting and has work in the permanent collections of the Islip Museum and Guild Hall.
Her altar will be an installation of Day of the Dead figures, candles, flowers, and a wall of drawings of the skeleton and flowers done by her and a selection of Ross School students. The central image is a drawing by Cross, inspired by the death wall at the Mayan site of Chichen Itza. This installation will also have an interactive component where viewers can contribute names of diseased loved ones and or the names of persons they admired from history who have passed.
The show also features Cross’s painting New Ordeal for Survivors whose lone skeleton figure selling wares speaks to the ongoing threats for survivors after catastrophe. Jon Snow is the artist in residence for the Hayground School in Bridgehampton, and Ocean Revolution, an ocean conservation project working primarily in Mozambique and the Sonora desert in Mexico. He and his students aged 6-13 have created their own traditional Day of the Dead talismans similar to the milagros (devotional charms used for healing purposes and as votive offerings) found in Mexico.
Kerry Sharkey-Miller, a local artist from Sag Harbor and member of the Media Faculty at the Ross School, has created photographs incorporating a unique perspective that plays off of her recent body of work using the carousel as a metaphor to explore the cyclical aspects of life. She will also be exhibiting a series of related photographs.
In 2005, Maria Magdalena Maciak performed a butoh dance, "Here Is No Insects" for Bronwyn Roe's installation at the Ross School coy pond. For this exhibition Maciak edited excerpts of the performance; butoh dance felt well fit for Day of the Dead celebration. Butoh is a Japanese art form and it often evokes images of decay, fear, desperation, eroticism, ecstasy and stillness. Butoh is mental and physical; it presents landscapes and inanimate states or objects such as corpse burned into ashes blowing away in the wind.
Maria Magdalena Maciak was born in Lodz, Poland. She is a documentarian, a video artist and an educator. Maria co-founded the media studies program at the Ross School in East Hampton, NY. She currently serves as Media Director at the Ross Institute for Advanced Study and Innovation in Education. Maria is collaborating with Firas Majeed, an Iraqi refugee in Syria who started a grassroots support group for Iraqi students who are refugees: http://nativewithoutanation.blogspot.com. This year Maria serves as a host for an Iraqi family resettled to US and encourages all to host Iraqi refugees.
Alice Warder Seely, who makes her home in Hondo, New Mexico, is a writer, painter, sculptor, and jewelry designer. Her mixed Indian, Spanish, and Anglo heritage us reflected in all of her work including the pewter jewelry, which she designs, casts, and hand finishes. Her pins, pendants, necklaces, and bracelets displayed in ‘Milagros and Memory’ feature Day of the Dead imagery and antique folk art images adapted from historic church paintings.
Day of the Dead History:
El Día de los Muertos/The Day of the Dead is a cultural tradition initiated by the indigenous people of Mexico over 3,000 years ago who viewed death as the continuation of life, not the end. Despite the influences of Christianity, the tradition continues today and people gather to celebrate and honor the lives of relatives and friends who have passed away. Families traditionally create altars (ofrendas) to invite the souls of the deceased to return home. Special foods, flowers, photographs, personal belongings and symbolic items are often included in the altar to make them feel comfortable and joyful during their stay.