Sandra Nitchie’s portraits of famous figures incorporate the motif of Day of the Dead figure La Catrina to mysterious effect, creating tension between what is seen and what is known. A skeletal character popularized during the Mexican Revolution, La Catrina was initially a satirical symbol of class revolution. More recently, the figure has been transformed into an icon of death incorporated into Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations that commemorate the ancestral past. After moving to Mexico, Nitchie began using the inimitable symbols and scrolls of La Catrina as a mask applied to celebrity’s faces. In her portraits of John Lennon, Amy Winehouse, Liz Taylor, and Elvis the artist questions: what is revealed and what is hidden, what is authentic and what is imagined?
In La Catrina, Frida Kahlo I, Nitchie depicts modern Mexican portraitist Frida Khalo with the blood red eye sockets and sutured lips of La Catrina. Holding a large flower and clothed in her traditional Tehuana dress, Kahlo’s enduring image is as ingrained in Mexican visual culture as La Catrina’s. The combination reinforces the questions of gender, race, class, and coloniality that both La Catrina and Kahlo have come to symbolize.