Redefining la ofrenda: evolving conceptual elements in public institutions
Cottingham, Katrin Eril
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La Ofrenda, or the offering, is deeply embedded in Latino-American culture and is closely associated with Dias de Muertos, the Days of the Dead, a joyous celebration to commemorate the deceased. This thesis explores the history of La Ofrenda from its roots in ancient Mesoamerica to its subsequent merging with Spanish religious beliefs during the colonial Mexican period. Symbolic and ritualistic elements of La Ofrenda are examined to reflect the syncretic nature of the altar showing how it incorporates elements of both cultures. The thesis then analyzes the placement of La Ofrenda in the context of public institutions across the United States of America to discern if authentic characteristics remain when the altar is featured public venues. Each chapter addresses a different set of contrasting elements with the first chapter examining traditional aspects and materials vs. contemporary installations. Second, will consider the distinction between private and sacred displays and those featured in a public secular venue. Next, an effect on La Ofrenda by the very institutions that are trying to preserve the practice is examined with a look at contemporary artists who create highly conceptual Ofrendas reflecting the ever-changing aspects of Modern art, using a wide variety of nontraditional techniques such as computer technology, video and performance. These new methods of artistic representation are challenging and changing not only La Ofrenda, but what can be perceived as an Ofrenda. The question of the future of the display of La Ofrenda in a public setting is examined through these nontraditional altar representations and addresses the ramifications they present to the authenticity of La Ofrenda in conceptual installations.