'Angelita', 22 x 12 inches
Years ago while visiting family in Mexico City, I went to the Palacio de Bellas Artes where they had a fabulous exhibit of contemporary Mexican artists. I enjoyed the exhibit tremendously – it was great stuff, no doubt, but I cannot recall the names of any of the exhibiting artists. However, what I do remember vividly from that visit to the museum was the name of Juan de Dios Machain, a late 19th century Mexican photographer known for his post-mortem photographs of children. His photographs were not on display; they were in an Artes de Mexico issue entitled El Arte Ritual de la Muerte Niña, Numero 15, Primavera 1992. I found the photographs so evocative that I bought, the now tattered, and partially unbound issue of Artes de Mexico. The photographs were initially disturbing, yet they compelled me to look at a subject matter, most often considered morbid, in a very different light – not as morbid, but as beautiful surrender. So moved by his photographs that I began a series that addressed death – the ultimate surrender, and the death of children, which later evolved into loss of childhood. The paintings were monochromatic and painted on canvas using thinned out oil paint – all inspired by Juan de Dios Machain's photographs.