I was born and raised in Cuernavaca, a culturally rich city in Mexico. 

Growing up as a member of a traditional Aztec dance group, encouraged me to research and honor my indigenous roots; this included practicing ceremonial dance, learning native history, Aztec language, philosophy, and fine arts in order to preserve and communicate the traditions of my indigenous roots, as part of our cultural resistance.

 

I'm known for my Ofrenda art installations that I make for the Mexican celebration of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). We commemorate this holiday every year, often forgetting the history behind it: Day of the Dead is a celebration of indigenous Aztec roots that got mixed with Spanish culture. During this celebration, we honor and remember our loved ones who passed away.

 

I use my extensive art training, to create large scale public work that is culturally relevant and insightful. My Ofrenda installations are highly elaborate and take days to install: Hundreds of hours go into the creation of the artwork, since I customize every art piece that will be set on the installation. As is traditional, most of the piece is installed on the floor, Using my hands I draw Aztec symbols and patterns that are relevant to the theme of the “Tlalmanalli” (Ofrenda). These symbols and patterns are made with salt, colored sand, mulch, clay, seeds, grains, beans and flowers. I include sculptural ceremonial objects made with my own ceramics, metals, paper cutting, wrought iron, sugar skulls, in order to make a visually compelling piece.

 

I have evolved my installations to be interactive and educational as well: I have created a hands-on experience that offers a glimpse of the history behind the Day of the Dead, where participants can help create a traditional “Tlalmanalli” to gain understanding of Aztec symbols, language and art. Thus creating a sense of belonging while working together, we share and a new appreciation for the native cultures of this land. I finish my installations with a traditional Aztec dance demonstration, so my audience connects with the celebration in a meaningful way.

 

My Ofrendas are a complex ritual and due their temporary nature, the final product will be only a memory. Participation from the audience is required to make this experience memorable and meaningful, since people in all cultures share the same human experience of loss and grief.  In this sense, my art installations are educational, collaborative, deeply spiritual and ephemeral.

Artist statement

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© 2018 by Kia Arriaga.  Created with Wix.com