Day of the Dead
a picture series...by Samuel
My stay in San Blas was one of complete immersion, I lived and ate and suffered the daily contingencies of my hosts, especially the water shortage that saw the entire community without water for the five days leading up to the festival. I was warmly received and led into the heart of the festival, the kitchens where the ritual foods were prepared and the altars where the dead would return......

an ongoing series started in October 2000...

The Night Ride, pastel on paper, 2000
The Visitor, pastel on paper, 2001
Dreaming of Ensor at Ostend, pastel on paper, 2000
Water Shortage, pastel on paper, 2000
Lambertina's kitchen, pastel on paper, 2005
Viva Zapata, pastel on paper, 2000
Tamales y Atole, pastel on paper, 2000
Totopos, pastel on paper, 2005
Preparing the Ritual Feast, charcoal on paper, 2000
Day of the Dead Bread, pastel on paper, 2005
Day of the Dead, pastel on paper, 2000
Tehuanas, pastel on paper, 2005
Nacimiento de Sol y Luna, pastel on paper, 2000
Bruja Sexual, pastel on paper, 2000
Guie' Bigua pastel on paper, 2005
El Bojemio, pastel on paper, 2000
My Dentist, pastel on paper, 2000
Autoretrato, pastel on paper, 1998
During October an November 2000, I was invited by Mayra J. Desales to attend the Zapotec Day of the Dead celebrations, in San Blas Atempe, on the Pacific Coast of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This is a pre-Colombian celebration of the return of the spirits of the dead to visit their living family members. A long tradition of Mexico and the Zapotec people.

I am a painter who has painted in Meso-America for the last twenty years, especially in the countryside and especially among various indigenous peoples of Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico. For me, this was a great opportunity to see the dream life of the people and to experience the duality of life and death. To experience this metaphorical mind that thinks of life and death in the same moment, as a single entity. A duality that I think is at the heart of the Mexican national identity.

Arriving from Europe, I had a set of pastels and twenty sheets of paper. I began to paint right away, looking at the preparations for the holiday all along the way from Mexico city through Oaxaca and in San Blas Atempe. I began to see skeletons everywhere. Not only those that other artists were creating for the holiday, but the more I looked the more I saw other people and myself as skeletons. I began to see through the flesh of everyday life and see the constant of our bony structure.

My stay in San Blas was one of complete immersion, I lived and ate and suffered the daily contingencies of my hosts, especially the water shortage that saw the entire community without water for the five days leading up to the festival. I was warmly received and led into the heart of the festival, the kitchens where the ritual foods were prepared and the altars where the dead would return.

My Objective as a painter was to see, to document and to express the drama of the moment.

I drew naturalistically, figuratively, with the narrative in mind. I used charcoal first, on paper 18 by 24 inches, then when the drawings were fixed. I used the natural environment to inspire the colors. These colors might be called “Mexican” , they often are, but they are also radiant primary colors that attempt to invest the images of skeletons with the vibrance of life.

The project was very successful, the pictures represent the reality of the event and at the same time, suggest the complex psychological reality that the Zapotecs live with…I find the concept; the duality, inspiring and a channel to another view of life, as enduring and eternal…

It is amazing to me to see the pictures in retrospect and realize that these people are celebrating a very ancient view of the world and human experience, which they are still enjoying…The pictures have a poetry in them that makes me wonder what difference the contemporary political struggles of Mexico and the explosive economies of our time make to a people who are essentially occupied with a world view that began long ago and advances independent of day to day life. A world view that includes the ancestors…A world view, of life, that includes death…

Samuel in San Blas Atempe, Mexico
November 2000
.....Did you enjoy your tour! Would you like to buy a painting? Note that most of the paintings are made on archival museum quality paper that will last for generations. Sam uses Shmincke pastel pigments which give the bright colours you will be enchanted with! The paintings are available for the price of 700.00$ USD shipped, unframed, anywhere in the world. do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions --we travel many months of the year, so the best way to get in touch with us is through Cyber... e-mail us at: sam@dragondancetheatre.net
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Charcoal on paper, by Sam Kerson
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