There’s a warmth and honesty in the self expression of unschooled folk art that I find compelling and inspiring. In particular, shrines dedicated to family members who have died, made by people in their own homes for the Mexican “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) festival, I find touching and poignant. Traditionally these shrines are religious in character, however, as an Atheist, in my images of “Dia de los Muertos” I deliberately avoid the use of religious symbols; it goes against the grain for me to promote any form of supernatural belief.
The religious do not have a monopoly on death. It is open to all cultures and all individuals to honour the dead we loved and to celebrate life. So I’ve re-interpreted the art of the festival for a secular society.
I’ve taken this a step further by imagining a place where a secular celebration of “Dia de los Muertos” could take place and created Cactus County; a New Mexico desert community of scientists, philosophers and artists who live more or less by Epicurean principals, that is eschewing religion and belief in an afterlife, while pursuing happiness through learning and a knowledge of how the world works. My work reflects this utopian ideal, so while my art may be naive and unsophisticated in its style, it has meaning and it is sincere.
In short, a lot of my work is based round a secular celebration of the Day of the Dead, so there are a lot of skulls and cactus in my paintings.