When Skeletons Dance

Today I went shopping for the ofrenda (altar) I am making for Lawndale Art Center’s 20th Annual Day of the Dead celebration. I went to my local Fiesta grocery store where I picked up some limes, some artificial flowers, and a few altar candles. Next stop: Casa Ramirez, a local gallery who specializes in Day of the Dead. There I bought some purple and yellow oilcloth and a glittery sacred heart.

Once at the gallery, I used a box to create a tier. I placed the purple and yellow oilcloth over this and tucked it under the box to create pools of fabric on the table. I anchored these on either side of the tier with marigold yellow candles. Atop the tier I put a black and white skeleton candle and my sacred heart. The red heart has a yellow flame emerging from its crest and a small black and white skull glued to its center.

I used the limes to line both the front of the box and the space between the wall and the table. I tacked copies of photos of my mother, my grandmother and grandfather onto the wall, next to orange and red “papel picados,” traditional Mexican paper-cutouts. I placed photos of my father, my stepfather, and my great grandmother on the table and surrounded them with rock salt and orange and red hibiscus blossoms.

Monday I go back to place plants on either side of the altar, orange and yellow edges to the green leaves, and to create an arch of hibiscus flowers on the wall around the photos. I stand back to admire my work. I love the skeletons juxtaposed against the riotous color.

I go now to put a chicken in the oven and roll out some cookies. When they have cooled, I will frost them white and use black gel to draw in hollow-sockets for eyes.

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