Arts & Entertainment

Mexican artist reinvents painting shoes for Day of the Dead

By Jose de Jesus Cortes

Oaxaca, Mexico, Oct 18 (efe-epa).- Although art galleries in which to display her work are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, artist Doris Arellano Manzo is reinventing the painting of sports shoes with an eye toward Mexico’s traditional Day of the Dead.

“Since I love painting, I can paint for you a big canvas in a small format. When I’m here with my paints and brushes I’m in heaven; an artist’s work is like being a little closed off. We go out when there are expositions when you have to show up in public or for interviews,” she said.

Living in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, she said that, as an artist, she can’t just sit around and, as she talked to EFE, she decorated the side of a tennis shoe with a dark Catrina – the female skull that is one of the icons of the Day of the Dead festivities – and later she will surround the image with multicolored flowers.

Arellano spends the days creating images for her new Day of the Dead collection on sports shoes.

“The pandemic came and this whole situation halted many things, for example expositions. And that affected us painters, right?” she told EFE.

Because of the pandemic, artists “don’t have any way to show our work, because really at an exposition we show all our creations, all the work we produce. That’s stopped and we have to look for new ways for people to see what we’re doing,” she said.

Regarding her new work, Arellano said that she focused on the Day of the Dead because big celebrations and rituals have been suspended in Oaxaca, with no end in sight because of the coronavirus.

“By doing this, I’m trying to help reinvent these deeply rooted customs, in my own way and with a great deal of respect,” she said.

She said she considers her work with the sports shoes and images of the Day of the Dead to be original and added that each shoe is unique and cannot be illustrated in the same way again. “No pair of tennis shoes is going to be the same. They’re unique because it’s all done by hand, it’s not done by machine,” she said.

During the quarantine, Doris has found her best ally in her daughter Frida, who helps her advertise her painted shoes online.

A communication sciences professional and well-acquainted with the social networks, Frida has helped to position her mother’s creations in the marketplace and they already have a dozen orders pending for the Day of the Dead.

The painter gave her daughter credit for the idea of painting the shoes. Her first attempt came last July when she decorated several pairs of shoes for Guelaguetza, the Oaxaca cultural fiesta that was suspended – in terms of in-person participation – due to the pandemic.

“Everything having to do with computers is what I do, (setting up) the Web page, all the advertising, the publicizing that’s done on the work. That’s my job,” said Frida, who participated in the interview.

She said that she and her mother spend a lot of time working together and right now they’re trying to open up things on the social networks.

“We decided to start getting into that more and publicizing the work. When the pandemic situation came, we looked at that method so that all this publicity that’s done when there’s an exposition isn’t lost,” she said.

Doris Arellano places her work within the contemporary traditionalist vein, and she has adapted to these difficult times on her Instagram and Facebook accounts.

The Mexican state of Oaxaca currently is classified as a high-risk area in terms of Covid-19 infection, according to the epidemiological scale used by the authorities to determine what kind of activities can be undertaken there.

That risk level in Oaxaca restricts people’s mobility in public places, including at museums and public galleries, which remain closed.

The Day of the Dead (in Spanish: Dia de Muertos) is a Mexican public holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, and by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere. The multi-day holiday – coinciding with Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, or All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, in the Christian tradition – involves people gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and helping support their spiritual journey.

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