This permanent memorial at Chimayo, New Mexico evokes the language of the roadside shrine. The permanence of the ceramic calla lilies is undermined by a thin sheet of cellophane wrapped around the bouquet. Its haphazard embrace borrows the language of temporary memorials, those placeholders for the work of mourning that pop up right after someone dies. The objects that are left at these transitional sites are often simple and redundant—flowers, candles, teddy bears and especially, bouquets of flowers; the kinds of items that can be bought at the corner drug store. Telltale traces (cellophane) of these in-and-out purchase sites are often left on the objects to emphasize the immediacy and urgency of the mourner’s grief.
To paraphrase Walter Benjamin, the great signs of culture are ‘far more the ruffle on a dress than some idea.’