Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Day of the Dead Altar

Day of the Dead Altar
Palm Springs Art Museum

The design and construction of this altar is meant to honor the tribal women, who were basket weavers and members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The focal point of the altar consists of the painting, Guadalupe Arenas, Snake Weaver, by Pamela Hunt Lee, representing Arenas who lived and worked in the Coachella Valley during the late 1800’s into the mid 1900’s.  Included on the altar are photos of other basket weavers, including Delores Patencio, who created utilitarian vessels and eventually baskets sought after by collectors during the early 20th century and what was known as the Curio Trade.  Arenas and her counter parts lived in harsh desert conditions, creating beautiful vessels, a craft handed down from mother to daughter.  In the painting, Guadalupe Arenas is shown surrounded by design elements used in her weaving.  The composition of strangling snakes, her serious look and the palette are symbols of a life led in harsh conditions while creating spectacular baskets.  The museum’s current exhibition, Grass Roots: Native American Basketry of the West, displays several of the baskets created by Guadalupe Arenas, Delores Patencio and their contemporaries.

All vessels on and around the altar are baskets, some filled with plants symbolizing juncus, sumac and deer grass laboriously collected, prepared and used to weave baskets.  Rocks collected from the desert and small paintings of cactus symbolize the arid environment.  Photographs of Guadalupe Arenas, Delores Patencio and others honor these basket weavers. 

This altar will remain installed through Day of the Dead Celebration at the Palm Springs Art Museum on Sunday, October 30, 10-5 which is free and open to the public.