Even death cannot defeat Dulce Tapp’s optimism.
This exhibit opened my eyes and helped me appreciate the Day of the Dead. To tell you the truth, I’ve felt uneasy about all the trinkets in the Mexican tourist trap stores, and avoided the crowds hanging around the edges of cemeteries, with their cameras flashing as families visit the graves.
This feeling I was intruding on something I didn’t understand was reinforced when I came across a little park in Zihuatanejo. It had been transformed into a shrine, with a little note dangling on a string at the entrance, “por favor, no molestar.” But that feeling of imposition was transformed into one of appreciation after some time with Dulce and her art.
Dulce Tapp has managed to create a collection of art which comments on a tradition going from prehispanic to modern times. The thread which connects this evolution is a belief about the soul’s journey. As Dulce says, “You don’t go up when you die. You go down.” Our loved ones remain a part of our world and our lives.
In one of her pieces she portrays the adventure of the soul as it moves through a transformative experience, ending up as a hummingbird. “Which is why you may hear someone say, ‘Oh look, there is Grandpa!’, when they see one fly by.”
Ever wonder about the skulls and hearts? They’re prehispanic. The invading Spanish were unsettled to see rows of skulls on stakes during what was then a month long festival. So they brought in missionaries to try to eradicate the custom.
When they couldn’t eliminate the people’s dedication to the festival, they changed the date from August to November. Then shortened it from one month to one day, to align it with the Catholic Church’s All Souls Day. So the skulls and hearts can be seen as a tribute to ancestors, and the power of a tradition standing up to cultural elimination.
And the dressed up skeletons? They started out as a 1910 Revolution era, satirical put down of those who denied their native blood by imitating European fashions. Artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, began this ridicule of the fancy-dress-and-white-makeup social climbers. He reminded them that we all end up as skulls. Be true to who you are and be proud of it, was his message.
Now here’s an interesting fact about Dulce. She demonstrates a direct artistic lineage to Posada. Here’s how that line of influence works:
Famous social muralist Diego Rivera considered Posada to be his artistic father. He evolved the imagery during post revolution optimism, into something more powerful. Adding elements of pride and glamour to the art of The Day of the Dead. Posada’s vain lady in a ridiculous hat turned into an elegantly dressed lady with a feathered serpent boa.
His wife, the equally famous, Frida Kahlo, has had her image added to today’s versions as “Frida Kahlo Catrina”. Her image embraces an expression of self confidence, and a stronger connection to the ancient deity of protection Mictecacihuatl, now known as La Catrina.
And now Dulce, who used to take a bus to Frida’s house during her lunch breaks, so as to absorb the atmosphere, is taking the images further. Giving us a portrayal of this celebration through the next generation’s experience. Joy, with children singing and playing. Fancy dress, and bright Marigolds, celebrating life. Now, and beyond the grave.
The Day of the Dead: The Journey exhibit by Dulce Tapp is showing at Applecrate Galleries (5530 Manotick Main Street) until January 5, 2018.