Laurie Lipton & Jose Posada

29/5/12 – Laurie Lipton: The Sweet Seller, 2008

I have been looking through Lipton’s website and when I viewed this particular image for the first time I did not recognise the sugar skulls or the skeletal figurines. It did take two to three times to actually notice the sugar skulls within the black and white image.

Lipton’s official website mentions the artist’s interest in ancient European or renaissance art from the 1600’s. Lipton also explains that she uses “fine cross-hatching lines” in order to create her drawings, which feature a very high level of detail, tone and definition. (L.Lipton, 2010)

There is limited information about Lipton’s Sweet Seller, although the sugar skulls and the skeletal figures may refer to the Mexican Day of the Dead festival. The image might display an actual store in Mexico that sells sugar skulls for the festival and the elderly woman behind the counter also features very animated expressions, which may emphasise for enthusiasm for the event.It is quite difficult to determine whether the artist actually travelled to Mexico or whether the artist referred to other images or interpretations.

One could argue that Lipton’s Sweet Seller effectively documents spiritual or cultural traditions within Mexico through the use of black and white. According to Stanley Brandes, The Day of the Dead is often portrayed as a very colourful and vibrant festival, although one could argue that the artist still captures the event through her impeccable illustrations.  Lipton applies a high level of detail to the woman’s facial expressions and to the sugar skulls in order to create a sense of character and style.

Laurie Lipton: Reunion, 2008

One could argue that Lipton’s skeletons feature similarities to Jose Guadalupe Posada’s Illustrations. According to Regina Marchi, Posada’s work features skeletal figures  wearing different outfits or performing everyday activities, which are supposed to mimic the living.

From a personal perspective, Lipton’s Reunion also features four skeletal figures that are ready to welcome the human corpse who lays motionless within the coffin. The skeletal figures are dressed in black and their items of clothing may suggest that the dead have come to attend the ceremony or the funeral. Stanley brandes compares the Day of the Day festival with funerals or ceremonies within the Western Culture.

Jose Guadalupe Posada

Brandes argues that the Day of the Dead honours and celebrates the reunion between the living and the deceased, while the Western culture mourn or grief over the loss of a friend / family member. Perhaps Lipton’s image refers to characteristics from the Day of the Dead festival and society’s interpretation of death within the West.

The skeleton’s lively expressions may combine humour with representations of death, which contrasts with the corpse of a young man that lays within the black & white coffin.

One could also compare Posada’s illustrations with Lipton’s drawings, which both feature different styles and aesthetics. While posada’s work reflects positive or optimistic representations of death within the Mexican culture, the use of black & white within Lipton’s drawings may reflect traditions or beliefs within the Western culture.

Brandes, Stanley. Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead. The Day of the Dead in Mexico and Beyond.  Australia: Blackwell Publishing, 2006

Marchi, Regina.M. The Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenan.  New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2009. p.45

Laurie Lipton. “Bio.” Laurie Lipton, (Accessed 26/5/12)

Image Citations:

The Sweat Seller,×90-5cm


Jose Posada,


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