October 10, 2012

Arizona Artist Shares His Mexican Culture in Art

"Milagros y Muerte" Features Masks to Honor the Dead

Muerte Mask by Angel Luna
Muerte Mask by Angel Luna

Arizona artist Angel Luna shares an important part of his Mexican heritage with northern Nevadans with an exhibit at Western Nevada College that celebrates the Day of the Dead. His exhibition of ceramic masks, “Milagros (Miracles) and Muerte (Death),” shows in the Main Gallery at the Carson City campus through January 25.

Luna, a ceramics studio owner and Arizona Western College professor of fine arts, visited WNC October 31- November 1 to open the show. He also offered a ceramics workshop for WNC classes, and create a Day of the Dead altar with WNC Latino students, in the Atrium Gallery. An artist reception was scheduled on November 1, 5-7 p.m.

The artist’s preference for creating with clay comes from his upbringing.
“(I) have worked in the fields with my hands,” said Luna, who helped his parents as a farmworker. “This has caused me to continue working with my hands in the medium of clay. Clay, for me, is the material especially for the mark making.”

Luna said his original Milagros artwork included traditional elements such as heart, eye and hands.

“The original Milagros are votive in reference to the answers of prayers,” Luna said. “In Mexico and the Southwest, when you pray for the removing of an ache or pain, you pray to a saint or altar. When the pain goes away like a miracle, you purchase a little votive representing the ailment that has been answered and place it on the altar or pin it to the sculpture representing the saint’s clothing.

“I have taken this idea and incorporated it with my interest in masks and mark making to represent the Milagros that we think upon.”

To reflect modern culture, Luna’s most recent Milagros masks are representative of modern “miracles” or present-day vices.

“Being part of a visual culture, we are bombarded with the imagery of modern miracles to focus our prayers and thoughts upon, such as the next television set, the next meal, or next pill to solve our problems. This has caused me to create masks with miracle vices on their foreheads,” he said. “Humor is also a part of this work, considering that you should be able to laugh and criticize the crutches that get you through every day, and that is a miracle in itself.”

The Muerte portion of the exhibit reflects Luna’s past experiences with the Day of the Dead.“I make the skull masks to represent that which we leave behind,” Luna said. “In Mexico, the tradition is to poke fun at death and represent it as part of the cycle of life. We need to enjoy each day since they are numbered.”

Luna’s colorful death masks are encrusted and evoke imagery.
“The teeth are glazed to represent the enamel that still shines after we pass,” Luna said. “The flowers represent the cycle, the speed that they blossom and then die to pass on the seeds to start the cycle again.”

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