Spanish, art students combine efforts

TICONDEROGA - Ticonderoga High teachers Brittney McCarthy and Lynne Lenhart recently developed an interdisciplinary unit encompassing art and Hispanic culture.

The project was titled "Dia de los muertos, a day of remembrance."

Junior level Spanish and art classes combined to explore the significance of the national holiday in Mexico that commemorates deceased loved ones. The celebration takes much of its tradition from the Nov. 1 Catholic observance of All Saint's or All Soul's day.

The art presentation by McCarthy discussed Jose Posada, a famous Mexican artist whose depictions of the holiday celebrations are known throughout the world. Posada employed black and white etchings of daily life in Mexican society. Posada's etchings depicted the skeletons participating in normal everyday tasks and activities; tasks usually reserved for the living. He used skeletons in place of living humans to represent the natural connections of life and death. For Mexican society, his art brought to the forefront the concept that remembrance of lost family members can also be a time of celebration of lives lived.

McCarthy also introduced contemporary artist Thaneeya McArdle, a painter of Hispanic descent. McArdle uses bright colors and different types of media to examine the relationships of live and the culture norms of death in Mexican society.

The art students will continue the project by creation a two-dimensional depiction in the style of McArdle, using the media that they choose and their own designs.

The cultural presentation by Lenhart involved the construction of an ofrenda or altar; similar to ones found in Mexican homes during this holiday period.

Students Adam Losher and Jolenta Bishop assisted in the construction of the ofrenda. A three-tiered structure is laden with fruits, foods, photos, symbols and images that represent a deceased family member. Items of significance to the loved one and the family are placed on each of the three levels. The ofrenda is usually set up in a home as a visual memorial site.

Students also discussed the differences and similarities in customs and traditions surrounding death in the United States and Mexico.

The Spanish SUNY 103 student's second stage of the project involved a writing task. Each student created a calavera or a rhyming poem that brings forth the images and symbols of memorials and remembrances of the day. Students wrote the calaveras in Spanish and chose unique themes to develop in the poems.

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