Life in Death – an Artistic perspective…

“Life in Death”
Paper-mache Construction (2017)
B. Donohue

I constructed a paper mache mask this past October in honor of All Souls Day (Nov 1st) and Dia de Muertos, celebrated on November 2nd. At first, I attempted to paint the mask in the tradition of Hispanic artisans, but found I could not. I am not Hispanic, and it made no sense to me to attempt to mimic one…..

I am however, a collage artist. I applied my skill to try and explain what death means to me….. I looked at lots of pictures in magazines and chose those images that had a symbolic resonance about death and dying. Death is as much about Life as being born. Everything on this planet is birthed into being, and everything passes away. Nothing and no one is free from this Transformation.

I need to explain that I “borrow” symbolic images from a variety Peoples. I mean no disrespect to anyone or any culture in doing this. I am of mixed heritage, with my genetic makeup comprised of Spanish, Mexican, French, English and Irish roots. I simply believe that symbols are part of the human subconscious and is a language we all can understand.

I began my collage layers at the top of the skull using pictures of the dark night sky with stars. We come from starburst. My next layer laid down over the forehead was of dawnlight, symbolic of Life awakening in us as well as in all living things. I chose the image of a hummingbird feeding on a flower on the forehead. Hummingbirds have many symbolic meanings, but the Taino tribes of South America saw the hummingbirds as a symbol of rebirth. In fact, the hummingbird was the symbol for the one who spread life across the world.

Pink roses grace multiple locations on the mask. Their symbolic meanings were first recorded in Greek mythology. It was believed that roses originated from Adonis, who was the deity of plants and rebirth. Pink roses symbolize gratitude, grace, admiration, and joy in life.

On the left side, you will find the Coyote and Deer. In Native American stories, the Coyote is an important messenger of personal transformation Not all Native American stories see the coyote as only good or only evil, but most believe he represents a balance. Balance cannot exist without both good and evil, life and death, beginnings and endings. In Celtic symbolism the Deer is both male and female – the Hind is the feminine aspect who can access the fairy world and teaches humans about spirituality. The butterfly is a symbol of change, joy and color. The exquisite blue butterfly was considered a miracle of transformation and resurrection. The Bluebird is a symbol of the angelic realm. It’s meaning is one of happiness grace and delight.inCollage_20180125_191828649.jpg

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