I have had the pleasure of participating in the National Museum of Mexican Art's Day of the Dead exhibits on 3 previous occasions. The past exhibits in which I was involved were very "traditional" in content displaying a large variety of altars (ofrendas), as well as paintings, and sculptures, honoring the memory of the deceased.
Día de Muertos: A Spiritual Legacy is just as traditional, yet inspired by the Mesoamerican shaft tombs in which individuals were buried with objects and gear for the next life. While the exhibit will still have ofrendas, and other works of art typically displayed in Day of the Dead exhibits, it also includes work with a slight twist. In my opinion, this work approaches the subject matter from the viewpoint of the departed by specifically exploring the question, "What would you take with you when you die?" Thirty artists were invited to participate—we were all given a “veliz”, a suitcase, to use in any way we desired in response to the question posed.
The exhibit opened Friday, September 21, and will continue through December 9, 2018. Hope you can see the exhibit and support the National Museum of Mexican Art.
About the Piece
Personally, I do not believe that when I die, I will simply cease to exist and although this belief is viewed as naïve by many, I have faith that when I take my last breath, my spirit will leave my body and instantly be in heaven with my memory intact—memories of my life and of those I have loved. Therefore, in response to the question: “What would you take with you when you die?”, I would take 3 intangibles: faith in my God’s promise of eternal life, memories of events and experiences of my life here on earth, and finally, love for family and friends.
The entire exterior of the veliz represents my faith, hence, the use of torn bible verses and a white dove to symbolize Christianity. The image on the exterior top was used in keeping with Matthew 18:3, which states, “ …Except ye be converted, and become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Obviously, neither the part of the verse that states, “…become as little children” nor the image of a child on the top of the veliz is meant to be taken literally—the verse and image speak to childlike faith, innocence, and trust in God.
Because I believe that my memory will be intact when I reach heaven, it was an important element in this piece. Thus, the top interior conveys memory by using mementos from important events in my life. These remembrances serve only as associative mechanisms and not anything I would physically take with me.
Finally, the bottom interior of the veliz illustrates the love I have for my family and friends. This love is depicted through the use of photographs, which were chosen because the essence of each individual was perfectly captured at a moment in time. Consequently, I felt it fitting to include these images as a collage. The heart, an obvious symbol of love, has visible heartstrings to convey the idea that the intense love one has for others can cause some individuals to linger a while longer on earth. Nevertheless, one must depart and to do so, detachment is necessary. For this reason, the heartstrings have been cut and placed in a pile along with a pair of scissors.
P.S. Special thanks to my brother Javier Acevedo, for helping me with power tool “challenges”, or my ineptitude.