When I was about eight years old, I used to suffer from chronic sinus infections. It was finally recommended that I get my skull x-rayed to see what could be an underlying cause. When the doctor was ready to put the x ray up on the screen, she told my mother to cover my eyes, and not let me look, because this could be shocking and traumatizing to a young child. Being the kind of kid I was (I would secretly peek at horror movies when told not to) I begged my Mom to let me look! So the doctor flicked on the light and there was my skull! At first I was shocked, because of how perfect it looked! I expected that maybe the eyes would look lopsided, or something would look wrong, but it was a perfect, little human skull. I then realized the awe and beauty in it and thought, ‘Wow! We All look like that underneath!’. That moment really made an impression on me. When I went home, I began studying the faces of my family, friends, and strangers and could see the skulls beneath them with fascination, awe and beauty. This experience inspired me to begin drawing them.
Later on in life, at age twenty four, I found a job that I could do at home; copying another artist’s paintings on needlepoint canvas. With this job, I first learned how to paint, and soon after began creating my own paintings. I painted, fairy tales, animals,flowers, and landscapes, but none of them seemed to be my signature style; they were missing an important piece of me! It was just on a whim, that in one of these landscapes, that I decided to add in the upper right hand corner, perched on a wall, a little, sitting skeleton. When I painted him, I thought, ah yes! That’s it! It just felt right and complete to place the skeleton there. And with that, many, many more skeleton ideas for paintings, came to me, where the skeleton takes center stage. All my paintings tell a story. Some are fun and humorous; others are deep and maybe have a hidden meaning (even I do not understand why I paint some of the things I do).
I’ve been called a “Day of the Dead Artist”. Around 2007 I began creating skeleton paintings, that were inspired by New Mexican family roots, where we would travel to twice a year throughout my childhood to visit my dad’s side of the family. These memories in Albuquerque of my grandma’s red chile, the view into the desert from her back porch, overlooking the rio grande and Sandias mountains, and the way I felt connected to the people and land, was the inspiration that I used to create another genre of skeleton paintings. I created a piece in 2008 called, ‘La Borracha’ that shows a woman, resembling Frida Kahlo, sitting, drinking alone in a Tiki bar, while a lone guitarist tries to lift her spirits by playing. I also painted skeletons, drinking, dancing, cooking, laughing, working, in the New Mexican/ Mexican roots inspired style. It was around this time that people started calling me a ‘day of the dead artist’. Although I knew what “Dia de los Muertos” was from my heritage, I wasn’t creating my paintings, inspired by the holiday. The painting ideas just flash before my eyes like a movie screen, and I paint them. I am grateful that such a celebration was created. The Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos that has been embraced around the world, and the reasons why we celebrate it , touch every one of us. We will all be skeletons one day, but our light continues to shine, through our memories of those we’ve loved and have loved us. We all come together in that light, and on this night, we celebrate that. To have my body of work be associated with Dia de los Muertos is an incredible honor.