Dia de los Muertos with 75 Grados

In 2012 we traveled to Oaxaca City for Dia de los Muertos to go on vacation and take a break from work and visit all the amazing artist spaces in town. As we prepared for our trip we we communicated with Arturo Negrete from 75 Grados studio in Mexico City, we met through Facebook where I had found posts documenting the posters they were printing. I was amazed by the work of the artists they were printing and through Facebook I was able to befriend Arturo as a fellow printer. It was by chance that we read Arturo’s Facebook post announcing that he was heading to Oaxaca the same time were were, we messaged him with the hopes of meeting in person and hearing more about his studio. He responded with an invitation to join him at his friends gallery/studio space, El Rincon de Sabina and work on a print there. Melanie prepared a three color design and we took the separations with us with plans to meet up. 

Once we were in Oaxaca we were anxious to hang out with Arturo, it’s always a treat to meet up with other screen printers, especially with some one who has played a major role in the development of the Mexican print movement. Meeting Arturo was like meeting a print hero, I was looking to hearing about how they run 75 Grados and work with local artists. Working on Melanie’s print gave us the opportunity to see their process in action. The design we printed was a piece Melanie, it was the perfect piece to print while we were there during the week leading up to el dia de los muertos. With the cempazuchitl in the background and with the yellow/orange blend, it was the perfect piece to honor the ancestors with. 

We had a lot of fun working with the 75 Grados crew, I always find that it’s best to stand back and observe their process. This is one of the things I love most about visiting with printers, learning to do things in different ways allows me to think come up with new ways of trouble shooting and even change my current practices in the studio. Printing was the best way to get to know each other, it was a grey day so it was the perfect time to spend it indoors and make some posters. We ran three colors using oil based inks which had a powerful smell, lucky the place was well ventilated. It was interesting seeing their inks and how they thinned them, even the little containers Arturo made out of folded paper. One of the things about oil based inks is that they always have the most beautiful pigments, the color are just marvelous making the posters vibrate, especially with this design. The multi-color blend, the almost fluorescent orange and the vibrant pink we used for the trap. It was an amazing experience, Arturo capped it off with a joke, he said to put our hands about the ink to feel the heat radiating from the print process, he then proceeded to tap our hands and using them into the ink. The perfect way to end the the day was to break bred together and have dinner. 

About the design:

It was really important to me to center a danzante in the composition of this poster because I feel that Dia de los Muertos is about a world view that understands the duality between life and death. These understandings are rooted in indigenous cosmologies and world-views from peoples across the Americas. I didn’t want the image to flatten what used to be a month long ceremony about remembering the ancestors to a kitschy image of a cartoonish skull that provides no historical context to traditional practices or the reasons for them. I shot this photo of Lazaro Arvizu a danzante from Xipe Totec who used to come to my community college in Los Angeles to teach the third and fourth graders from local schools about the traditions of Dia de los Muertos. This was the last year I helped organize the event before I moved to the Bay.

– Melanie