Dolores purchased a work from my last solo, Mental Concoctions. She was the first to arrive for the evening opening. She moved through the gallery slowly and then came to me and said “I want that one.” She pointed to a small self-portrait, casein on canvas, titled Truth and Lies. I hear that often so I don’t know when to take it serious. She said it a few more times, and then said, “Do I pay you now, or what?” “You really want it?” “Yes, I really want it.”
This is how it is sometimes. I get surprised when someone responds to a work and wants to buy it. I recall asking “Why do you want it?” She explained. She’d gotten it, she’d made a personal connection. It was a great way to start the opening…laying down a red dot on a sold painting…
I’ve known Dolores since we were kids. One day, last year she telephoned, “My siblings and I would like to commission you to create an ex-voto for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. Can you do it?” I took this commission for several reasons…family friends, 50th wedding anniversary, ex-voto. “Yes, I will be happy to do this.” I looked forward to it.
An ex-voto is a votive, an offering to a saint for a particular prayer or asking fulfilled. It represents devotion and thanks. It is considered folk art and is traditionally painted on tin. In small towns in Mexico, the ex-voto might be made by the artist of the village. I was happy to take on this role, artist of the village. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen myself this way. It’s a sort of sacred position, at least in my eyes. Phoenix is a large city, with many artists, and one can feel insignificant, regardless of ones role.
She’d asked me early enough that I had plenty of time to research elements to be included in it, various parts of the story of her parent’s life.
Flash back…Susana a young teenage girl, wanting a good man in her life. Everyday she goes to St Patrick’s Cathedral (in El Paso, TX) and kneels at the altar of Our lady of Sorrows, Nuestra Senora de Los Dolores. She asks Our Lady to send a good man, if not soon, then one day. Susana promises Our Lady that if she does send a good man, and they marry, she will name their first-born after her.
Enter Albert. Albert and Susana marry. Nine months later their first-born, is named Dolores.
Flash forward…Albert and Susana married 50 years, 7 adult children, full life, love and always present is God.
I took bits and pieces from their life story to form the design which I wanted to appear as folk art. Albert studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso, the emblem, his presence. Susana worked for an upholsterer, helping get him through school, hence the tack and hammer, hers. Our Lady of Sorrows is present as is the young teenage Susana. The Cathedral is depicted. Education, always important to the family, is represented by the books which are titled with some of the other family values of travel, family, faith and God. The seven children and their parents are in the ex-voto as is their offering, a prayer of thanks. The sunset and mountain represented in the background would be familiar to anyone growing up in neighborhood of Sunset Heights. Susana’s family grew up in Sunset, as did my parents.
Albert and Susana celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary August 23, 2008. My husband and I attended the event which included a mass officiated by Susana’s brother, who is a priest. There was music, song, dance, food, many friends, and lots of family. The ex-voto was a surprise gift from the kids to their parents. A photograph of it was included on the cover of the evening schedule of events. All the guests received a copy. It served as a memento for everyone, including myself.