Constructing Altar

21/11/12 – Black & White Altar 

Once the photographs were installed, I had started to construct the altar that was also included into the exhibition. The very first task was placing the black sheet on the bottom plinth and then placing the screen printed tablecloth over the top. Once the task was complete, a smaller plinth was added on top with another black sheet that was measured and cut in half. Then a smaller plinth was placed onto the very top with the other half of the black sheet and another printed tablecloth.

I then placed all of the photo frames onto the bottom and the top-level with tequila bottles filled with flowers and black paint. While building the altar, I had suddenly realised that I had drunk quite a lot of tequila this year! I had also filled cider bottles with black paint and flowers at the very top along with a large photo frame that was used as a main focal point. The back of the altar also featured photographs of myself along with bottle caps, pins, shells as well as black and white illustrations.

The paper tissue crosses and the sugar skulls were also included into the altar and the flowers were burnt with a lighter in order represent ideas of death and decay. The aim was to combine elements from the Mexican Day of the Dead along with random objects that I had an attachment with. In my own photographic prints,I had decided to dedicate the altar to this persona that I have created through the photographic self portraits. The use of black and white also reflects a Western interpretation of the Mexican Day of the Dead altars / ofrendas that are designed to attract deceased relatives to the celebration.

Maria Sobek explains that the altar reflects the three different levels to the land of the dead also known as Mictlan. Each level of the altar reflects the journey to the underworld, although I was very surprised when I had realised that the bottom of the altar was slowly decaying and the top was very clear and orderly. The altar questions what happens to the body after death and whether the departed spirits travel to a place beyond the living world. Through this particular installation, I begin to imagine what my altar would look like if I was dead.

Sobek, Maria Herrera -, ed. Celebrating Latino Folklore California ABC CLIO, 2012.

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