Valerie Arntzen

Rust to Religion

My fascination with religion began at age 10. My best friend’s family ran a funeral home and I wondered what all the fuss was about. I started going to all the churches I could walk to on Sundays. The Catholics at the time spoke Latin so it was hard to understand the passion these people felt for something that they could not understand. Also the cookies they passed out at the front tasted like cardboard.I thought the Greek Orthodox the most interesting but I confess it was the great outfits that really attracted me as I don’t speak Greek. I did not see the light on any of those Sundays but was always intrigued by the committment these people had for a story that happened so many years ago and how different each interpretation was. The images and icons I saw then have stayed with me always.

I travelled to Mexico and Guatemala in my early 20’s and met my first saint, the Virgen de Guadalupe. What I liked about her was that she was a woman, brown, and you could talk to her about anything.What can I say, I am a child of the 60’s. Witnessing the indigenous people combine their animist religion with Catholocism was wonderful.The churches and insense containers swinging from the ceiling and the aisles were filled with rose petals, corn, beans, rice, and candles. The ceremonies that could not be performed in the church were done on hillsides outside the cities. My favorite ritual of the religion was the milagros. For those that don’t know, a milagro is a representation of a part of the body or an animal. If your arm was hurt or your pig was sick you brought a silver charm in the shape of an arm or a pig and it was blessed by the curandero and then you could leave it on the shrine or carry it with you. A lot of the milagros left at the shrinewould have handwritten notes and prayers on pieces of paper, some in the shape of sacred hearts. They still use milagros today but they are now made of tin.

My art is influenced by my travels. I am still going to Mexico 30 years later and always have my camera with me. I have spent many years travelling in Baja, Mexico as well. I love the desert and the ocean. When I come home I look at these photos and things I have gathered from the desert and the dumps. They don’t bury their trash as the ground is hard and the salt air and sun will decompose most everything eventually. My appreciation of patinas on metal comes from my husband, Arnt who understands metal like no one I know. When I go walking I collect pieces of rusted metal, shells, rocks, wood, and especially bleached bones of animals. I am compelled to put them together in my art pieces. I hope you enjoy my interpretations of my travels.

Exhibition – Rust to Religion
Valerie Arntzen