We are in Brazil, in São Paulo’s city center: this giant mural of Santa Muerte reminds passersby of their own mortality.
Painted on the side of a building in downtown of the brazilian city, this elegant and fantasmagoric mural representation of Santa Muerte, aka Our Lady of Holy Death, confronts you with your mortal destiny and your short time on Earth.
The genesis of this unusual contemporary memento mori, titled La Madone de São Paulo, came in 2015 through an artistic collaboration between the Puerto Rican artist Alexis Diaz and the Chilean artist INTI (INTI means “sun” in Andean language). It was created for the first international O.bra Festival, a collective art project that aims to bring mind-blowing art to urban settings.
The artists were inspired by the sculpture of St. Teresa of Avila, which is housed in the Cornaro Chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. Draped under Gothic folds, she holds in her hand an arrow, a symbol of divine power. It is a representation of the transverberation which means “the spiritual traversing of the heart by a fiery stroke”, in simply words, the love of Christ.
The Madonna of São Paulo, meanwhile, tends an arrow towards a metal gray heart. The heart is not surrounded by flames and looks more like a mechanical device than a living organ.
Artists break with the religious principle to question this heritage through true love in contemporary life. While observing the end of the arrow, one discovers a red lily, symbol of the exaltation of the love. While the white lily, or lily of the Madonna, would represent purity, virginity.
The mural was created in time for the Brazilian All Saints’ Day on November 2, 2015. The holiday is an equivalent of the Day of the Dead, which although not as spectacular as it is in its birthplace of Mexico is still an important annual celebration for Brazilians. Since then the mural has been reminding passersby of the inevitably march of time and of their own mortality.
Presentation video for the O.Bra festival: