New York

Artist designs Día de los Muertos altar in Brooklyn for those who died during the pandemic

New Yorkers are invited to leave a remembrance of loved ones at Scherezade Garcia’s ofrenda at Green-Wood Cemetery

Scherezade Garcia, Corona Altar (2020), at Green-Wood Cemetery's Historic Chapel

A communal ofrenda, a family altar dedicated to dead loved ones, has been installed by the Dominican-born artist Scherezade Garcia at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery to give New Yorkers a chance to mourn anyone they may have lost over the past year, when the coronavirus has disrupted how families can gather even for funerals. “One thing that has been so hard about this pandemic is that people haven’t been able to say goodbye properly,” Garcia told the news site Bklynr.

Instead of the usual Virgin Mary, the colourfully painted and collaged paper altarpiece designed by Garcia features a portrait of a crowned Statue of Liberty, who is weeping tears of blood, and is dedicated to the immigrant community of New York, which has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus. Lady Liberty is surrounded by flowers such as the red angel's trumpet, a poisonous plant used by Indigenous South Americans for shamanistic rituals, and hibiscus, a folk remedy and emmenagogue. The installation reflects both the beauty and pain of life and death. “We’re mourning, but we’re also saying ‘I’m so happy, because I remember your life and you lived well’,” Garcia told Bklynr. “I want people to understand that beauty brings hope.”

The Corona Altar is on display in Green-Wood’s Historic Chapel through the traditional Mexican holiday, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), until 2 November, and visitors are encouraged to light an electric candle and leave flowers, photos and notes remembering those who have departed. The installation is open for free every day, from 10am to 4pm, and hundreds of New Yorkers have already stopped by since the work opened last week.