Here is Katrina Geenen artist’s statement for the “Altar-ed States” Exhibit.
The theme of this show is multi-faceted with many levels of meaning. The interpretations by each different participating artist are as varied as the theme- as varied as is each artist’s approach to the idea of facing one’s own mortality, or honoring friends and family who have gone before us.
There is also the cultural element- how different parts of the world mark the passing to the other side. There is the Irish wake, which is a party; there is the New Orleans Jazz Funeral, mournfully going to lay the body down, and upon leaving, it’s a party. The Mexican Day of the Dead is similar. The families lovingly tend to the family mausoleum, and have a great feast at which the departed soul is the guest of honor. There is costuming, skull candies, not unlike our own Halloween.
One way to celebrate the life of a departed loved one is to make a personal shrine or altar to them. An altar can also celebrate the idea of communicating with the Godhead or universal spirit. Altars can be very elaborate, but can also be as simple as a circle of candles in the sand, or a special place in the woods. It can be a tree, a stream, a stone. Or as in some southern U.S. traditions, it can be a prayer shelf, or a memory jar, or a bottle tree! Or some light bulbs! Annette Trefzer pointed out the use of the bare light bulb in the southern U.S. in the 1930s as a symbol of enlightenment, coming from African roots. This show features some light bulb pieces!
In this show, I have not only been influenced by thoughts of my own mortality, but by the religious belief systems of African and the African diaspora, especially Brazil. For many years I immersed myself in Brazilian music and culture, which led me to the strong African influences. And from that I learned about the cultures of the other African-American places- Haiti, Cuba, Miami, New York, the U.S. south etc.
These influences have been foremost in my creations for this show.