Painting Expediton Jan 7 - 21, 2010
January 7th I will be leading a two week painting expedition to Guanajuato and Patzcuaro in the highlands of central Mexico. We paint the towns the landscapes and local models. We stay, much of the time, in a lovely guest house in an indigenous community near the shores of Lake Patzcuaro. For information about this expedition, and to view a short video, go the the 'Classes' section of this website and scroll down to ' Outdoor Painting around Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan'
Noche de los Muertos
With Halloween just passed and today being Dia de los Muertos, I am recalling the long nights spent with Arminda Flores and her family in the community graveyard in Ihuatzio, Michoacan on Noche de los Muertos, the evening before the Day of the Dead. This painting is based on sketches I made as dawn began to illuminate the mists rising from nearby Lake Patzcuaro. Over that night the entire community had gathered around their family grave sites. Each family brought baskets of pan dolce, (sweet bread), fruit, numerous beeswax candles and masses of marigolds, which are traditionally viewed as the flowers of the dead. It is believed that, on this night, the barrier between life and death is permeable, so we pass it in the company off all those who are on 'the other side'. It's not a particularly solemn occasion. It's more like a quiet family picnic. Crackling fires fed by debris cleared from graves over the previous week reach bright fingers into the night sky. Family members wrap rebozos (shawls) tightly against the cold, pull close around the flickering candles and trade recollections, share gossip or just keep company with their invisible antecedents who gather in the enveloping dark.
Around the time of this painting, we sip hot chocolate to fortify ourselves against the predawn chill. Neighbors come over with gifts of food from a deceased relative who was close to someone in our family. We reciprocate with a gift from our family member to theirs. Thus by daylight, as we gather our baskets to depart, we are all taking home food that has been exchanged among the dead and which we will later eat on their behalf. One doesn't have to be a strict believer to draw consolation from this beautiful ritual.
This religious event is one of many that the devout and traditional Purepecha practice throughout the year. We will probably witness some others during our trip in January.
If you are interested in joining us click on the 'Classes' section of this web page and scroll down to ' Outdoor Painting around Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico'
To view more of my writings about Mexico go to 'Mexico en mi Corazon' in this blog.