Dia de los Muertos Owl?

Made by Margarethe Brummermann

So a while ago, the desert along Picture Rocks Rd was suddenly studded with little artificial skulls. Some one’s art, humor, litter, who knows. I posted some pics back then. Before the park rangers could remove the skulls, I grabbed a couple. Now Tohono Chull Park (we are in Tucson, close to Mexico geographically and culturally) is calling for submissions to its annual Dia de los muertos exhibit. Since I just finished my Elf Owl I tried this assembly. But I find it a little too macabre to use my little owl this way.

10 thoughts on “Dia de los Muertos Owl?”

  1. Never having been a fan of skulls for anything, I’m not particularly fond of them. But your owl is wonderfully delightful and masterful. Beautiful. I could look at that little guy all day. I lived in California for a while and love mesquite, so I vote for the branch and the little owl is a wonder no matter where he is. Great job! Thank you.

    • Thank you! He is sitting on a piece of Cholla wood now that fits him very well. I’m glad you like him!

  2. And have you considered decorating the skull to be consistent with the Dia de Los Muertos theme? This might make it more decorative and less macabre.

    Love Tohono Chull Park by the way!


  3. Beautiful work. Prehispanic cultures considered owls a sign of death and a bad omen, so in a way it’s appropriate; however, it is not usually used in day of the dead imagery. It’s a very positive celebration and it’s more about the colors and the food. My guess is that you colud probably decorate both in the traditional colors and add them to an altar. I’m curious about the dates: Are they asking now so that people have time to make their pieces? Day of the dead is November 2, so it’s still some time away.

    • Thanks!
      Yes, call for entry is always early.. and no, as I said in my lengthy answer below, I have no intention to use traditional Mexican symbolism and colors on my piece. I’ll rather avoid cultural appropriation, as tempting as it may be. I will instead stay with the European (I am German) renaissance imagery juxtaposing life and death in art. The piece may thus be an interesting contrast to more traditional Tucsonian entries. But I may just put the owl on a piece of wood and not enter that show at all …

  4. FANTASTIC! I love owls, I have an owl house in my back yard and take pics every year of the new occupants. Good job!

  5. Margarethe, your little owl is beautiful – and I think it would be perfect for the Dia de los muertos exhibit. To me, it looks both life-affirming and a beautiful way to celebrate the ancestors. However, there are some cultures that associate owls with death, and not in a good way. I don’t know enough about that tradition to know if they would appreciate your sculpture or not. But I love it!

    • Yes, my Native American friends like owls about as much as my mother liked skulls. So a definite clash of cultures and symbolism in this piece, if I leave it together to show it. I do not usually participate in that show which is put on by mostly ‘Anglos’ and definitely is a cultural appropriation. The theme is handled loosely and owls are often a part of it.
      To me, my rather ‘pretty’ owl on the very realistic skull looks more like a combination that a European renaissance painter would have assembled, so more my own background. Of course I also have some apprehension about using the plastic skull. It is a recycled object to me, and with that story, acceptable. Finding a bunch of skulls in the borderlands where so many migrants perish was a hair-raising experience by itself. We never found out who put them there and why.
      I am not at all sure that I want to pursue this exhibit. But I posted the assemblage on facebook and got a great variety of very interesting and often thoughtful responses. So as a temporary piece, it has already served its purpose.
      Now my little Elf Owl may retire to his final base, a mesquite branch, and also get his final feet – so far they are still without paper mache to be adjustable.
      I may write up his development from a ball of newspaper to discussion piece in my own blog – it was fun.
      Thanks as always for getting me to try paper mache!


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