Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Partake of the Honey" (DeLiba Mel)

I read an article in the November/December issue of Spirituality & Health, written about artist Dianne Bennett, who among a variety of art forms, creates "retalbos". These are known as altar boxes. Spaniards originally brought these small and richly decorated boxes with complex scenes to Peru. Originally of Christian design and carried by travelling priests, the indigenous people of Peru (and later throughout South and Latin America) used retalbos as a symbol of resistance to Christianity. With time, large, ornate retalbos of religious scenes were sometimes integrated into church altars.

These sacred portraits have evolved into a unique art form depicting a variety of aspects of Latino life & culture. Retalbos are painted on metal, tin, or wood, and they will frequently celebrate the occurrence of a miraculous event.

Dianne Bennett uses salvaged building materials and old metal signs from the area in which she lives in suburban Los Angeles to create these works of art. Growing up in this area during the 60's, she remembers a time when orange trees were much more numerous than they are now, and when she could easily hike into the wilderness. She says of her work: "My hope is to shine a light on the ephemeral beauty of life in this world, while raising questions about what we value, what we hold sacred, and what is disappearing before our very eyes."

You can see her work, which includes so much more than the retalbos, at Of the many retalbos on her website, I found one in particular that spoke to me ... of the sweetness of life, and the importance of seeking that sweetness out, each and every day. Please visit her website and enjoy her work.

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