Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Room of Her Own: My Mother's Altar, an installation by Sandra Cisneros

Where: American History Museum

When: through January 12, 2015

This display is on the Second Floor, East Wing, in the American Stories area.  It is an ofrenda, or offering, something set up to honor a deceased person on the Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.  It's a Mexican custom, which has gained popularity and spread throughout Latin America and the United States.

The author Sandra Cisneros has set up this ofrenda to her mother, who loved museums, art and culture and wanted to be an artist.  Sadly, she never was able to do this, as she was busy raising her children.  Truly, a cautionary tale.  Don't put off pursuing your dreams, or dreams are all you will have.

The display is a wild mixture of the macabre and the kitschy, with an abundance of flowers to add some natural beauty. Cisneros is quoted as saying that creating this assemblage of her mother's personal possessions and mementos was a way to transform her grief over her mother's death into a celebration of her mother's life.

I understand why the museum has put this in the American Stories exhibit, as the story of Latin America is also the story of the United States.  The problem is that this is a display that would benefit from quiet reflection and examination, and the area is noisy and busy.

Verdict: I liked both this display and the idea of honoring deceased loved ones every year.  I'm not sure I'm ready to start creating my own ofrendas, but it's a nice reminder to keep those you love in your heart, so they won't be forgotten.

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