Dear Curiosity Journal,

I’m going to take it back to September for some snapshots of the Driftless Curiosity Monumental Cartonería workshop where Gabriela Marvan taught a traditional Mexican folk art technique with paper and paste to create four larger-than-life Catrinas. Gaby led 4 days of workshops and 2 volunteer days with 14 Youth Initiative High School students and 12 adults, not to mention, many late nights to bring these beauties to completion. Each Catrina sculpture represents a famous woman or female archetype from Mexico who has passed away; Garbancera, Frida Kahlo, Oaxaca, and Adelita (left to right in the first 2 photos). The structures of the sculptures are made from willow and reed (some of which was harvested from the farm), and the outer form is crafted from recycled cardboard and paper we collected from local stores (shout out to the Viroqua Food Co-op 🙂 as well as a simple paste called engrudo, made from flour and water. The craftsmanship, care, and curiosity that was infused into this community project is truly spectacular. In the beginning phase, we were working on what one of the teenagers considered a tedious and time-consuming task, for which they gave a little grumble about how it was “going to take forever”. I overheard Gaby sweetly explain that this type of Mexican folk art matches the volume of death. It is a process of layers and waiting. It is not instantaneous like a photo, but something that we sit with, work with, observe, and change over time. I was captivated by her compassionate response regarding the tender topic of grief, which added a depth of meaning to my own artistic experience. It felt strange and fascinating to construct bones and piece them together, a mysterious mix of anatomy, art, and ceremony. As I worked on the bodies, I had flashes of Mary Shelly penning her masterpiece. I can’t tell you how many times I walked into the shadowy barn and thought I saw a person standing there, almost peeing my pants, only to realize it was our own works of art. If you missed the exhibition of these 4 lovely ladies at the Driftless Region’s Dia de Muertos Celebration, you can see Frida Kahlo in the Callan Wealth Management window display on Main Street in Viroqua. The others will be exhibited soon at the McIntosh Memorial library, the Pump House Regional Arts Center gallery in La Crosse, and Latino Arts gallery in Milwaukee. So, if you have a chance, I highly recommend checking them out.