Creating a Day of the Dead altar for my mother was a deeply emotional and therapeutic process. The altar, or 'ofrenda,' serves as a way to remember and honor the deceased. It's filled with objects and items that hold significance.

The process began with one of my favorite photos of her— It was actually showcased in the Sun Times for her full-page obituary in 2021. She believed in me, and told me that one day my work would be rubbing off onto someone’s fingers (referring to the ink of the print press).

Having grown up in the Catholic church I was exposed to depictions of saints a lot. Similar to the crowns and halos Basquiat uses, I too, honor those I hold in high regard by surrounding them with rays of sun. I knew taking my needle to the thick luster paper would be a challenge, but I couldn’t see my vision coming to life without embroidering colorful string onto my mother’s portrait. To add depth to the piece, I chose a shadow box as a display.

Table? Who needs a table.. well.. who wants a table? I wanted my piece on the wall. My original intent was not to create an entire altar but just a photograph in a frame. But the story continued. I took a trip to my local Dollar Tree for some artificial flowers and found myself grabbing everything that reminded me of my mom. (she used to work there, so of course there were so many items!) What started as a photograph turned into a floating altar on the wall with a scannable interactive piece to learn more about her, and the offerings on display.

When I bought those Monarch wings I never thought they would turn into a photo collage. I learned how to use the “pen tool” in photoshop as a ruler, and wow! I was able to create the collage perfectly sized on the first try! Though tedious both in photoshop and the process of cutting and pasting each image onto the wing, it was well worth the effort. My mom had so many people in her life over the years, and I wanted to honor as many of the roles that she played In her wings as possible.

Digital photography editing can be a crank-and-go process sometimes. For that reason, I’m so grateful for the opportunities I get to print and display my work. I’m taken back to my college analog days — using test strips, dodging/burning (or in this case, embroidering!) carefully handling the prints, etc. It makes me feel like a purist of sorts. I’m suddenly so connected to this one image that it consumes me. The process was emotional, but it also instilled a sense of peace. I felt connected to her, I felt like she was proud of me. It was a beautiful way to celebrate her life and spirit.

Creating this work was absolutely therapeutic for me and I’m thankful for Maria Villarreal for the invitation to be included in her most recent Day of the Dead Exhibition at Under the Bridge Studio.