“So what’s your creepy fascination with skeletons?” This is the question that I get asked again and again. So I guess it is time for an explanation. My first exposure to Catrinas was on a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico almost 10 years ago. Initially, I was fascinated with the colors and the dapper outfits. Being a person who lives in her head, captivated by an unusual and quirky imagination, I saw skeletons everywhere in my everyday life. “That waiter, he has a great face for a skeleton.” “How funny would it be to see skeletons playing in a jazz combo?”
When I looked up the meaning of the Day of the Dead, a celebration honoring the lives of friends and family that have gone before, I thought of all the lessons we could learn if we did take time to consider the contributions of our ancestors. Unfortunately, i think in our fast, technology-driven world, we rarely engage in listening to the stories of our heritage. As a result, I believe that we are losing our sense of heritage. Our ancestors are not just names in our genealogy. They are people with hopes, dreams, hardships, and failures that made our lives possible. Celebrating La Dia de Lose Muertons, All Saints Day, or other similar memorial on a regular basis in our culture would help to foster those conversations to bring mindfulness to the people from whom we have come.
The other captivating thing about the Catrinas is that once we are stripped of our “skin”, we recognize there is really not that much difference among us. When I paint a Catrina playing a trumpet, you have no idea if that person was white, black, asian, or hispanic. You have no idea their weight or even their age. You can recognize their skill and their passion first, before you have formed any opinion based on a preconceived notion. I think of how much nicer our world would be if we could make our first impressions about people in that way.
I read somewhere once that in La Dia de los Muertos tradition, the skulls are symbols not only of death, but of rebirth. I paint the skulls, or “las calaveras”, to represent people living their dreams. There was a time when I was afraid to try many things out of fear that I would be criticized or rejected. If I couldn’t be the best, why bother trying. I was hesitant to be vulnerable, to put my feelings on public display. I isolated myself from potential relationships in the same way, out of fear of disapproval. But as I get older, I think I have experienced a rebirth of sorts. I realize now that I have something to offer that even if not beneficial to all, might make the difference to one. So alas, I paint, I blog, I write, I live.