Calaveras Woodcut Prints Now Available on Dead On Paper!

Posted by Chris Ovdiyenko on

Calaveras prints are now available! I thought this would be a great time to give you a little window into what I was thinking while I created the designs, but if you want to get right to the prints, here's the link:

The Calaveras project has brought Day of the Dead artwork, inspired by Posada, to life in the form of decks of playing cards. Now that same artwork is available for display in the form of woodcut prints. I will personally be hand-pulling each print. Each print will be signed, numbered, and part of a limited edition. 

I am so excited to be able to offer these modern day renditions of traditional day of the dead prints. Printmaking has always been a special interest of mine and the process is near and dear to my heart. I hope you love the prints because I couldn't be happier to offer these originals for a reasonable price to all who enjoy the artistic style and love Day of the Dead artwork as much as I do.

These prints pay homage to the legacy of printmaker and illustrator, José Guadalupe Posada. Posada was a pictorial journalist and satirist known primarily for his Calaveras, or skulls, which Posada employed to make a political or religious statement. His most famous illustration, Calavera de la Catrina ("Skull of the Female Dandy"), was meant as satire aimed at the upper class under Mexican President Porfirio Diaz. 

These prints represent major players in the Mexican Revolution. For instance, the Spades are based on the aristocracy. The King of Spades is a rendering of Porfirio Diaz, President of Mexico turned dictator. Diaz was responsible for land rights being taken away from farmers and peasants and given to the haciendas, homes to the aristocrats of Mexico. The Revolution was mainly a war of land rights, spurred by the inequality of wealth in the country. Under Diaz, 5% of the population owned 95% of the land and workers on the haciendas were often treated no better than slaves—beaten for small infractions and sometimes killed in their pursuit to pay off never-ending debt to their hacienda masters. The Queen of Spades is my artistic salute to Catrina, a female member of the aristocracy. My interpretation is based loosely on Diaz's wife, Carmen Romero Rubio. She was very fashionable, and always dressed like the aristocracy of Europe. The Jack of Spades is a government soldier who fought under Diaz in the Revolution.

The Clubs suit represents the common people-the King of Clubs is a farmer, the Queen a peasant woman, and the Jack, a folk musician in the traditional charro suit of a mariachi player.

The Diamonds suit represents the clergy of the church. The Catholic Church was very active in politics at the time of the Revolution and owned a lot of land. In order to force the Church out of politics, anticlerical policies were introduced and some church land seized on behalf of the state. There's even incedences where clergy were executed—pretty serious stuff.

The King of Hearts is my artistic rendering of Emiliano Zapata, revolutionary and hero of Mexico. Zapata fought for the redistribution of the land from the haciendas and European aristocrats back to the native people of Mexico. A peasant by birth, he organized and led peasants in the South during the Mexican Revolution and forced Diaz into exile with the help of other revolutionary armies led by Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco in the North. Zapata was killed in 1919, betrayed and ambushed in a hail of bullets from his enemies. Zapata's armies had many key soldaderas, or women soldiers and officers. The Queen of Hearts is a soldadera, representing the female revolutionaries of the time. The Jack of Hearts is a bandito, a man who steals from the rich. Pancho Villa was a bandito before he was a general, stealing cattle from wealthy landowners in Northern Mexico.

The colorful history of the Mexican Revolution and the political satire of Posada's prints inspired me while making my own art and art prints. Posada's calaveras have become iconic in el Dia de Muertos celebrations, which take place on November 1st (little angels) and 2nd each year. I love the idea of celebrating the memories of all who have come before us and made such an impact on our world with their intelligence and bravery, as well as our loved ones. 

So check out theprints and I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about my thought process behind the designs:

"It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."

~Emiliano Zapata

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