I came across a bagpipes rehearsal near my office after the solar eclipse this week, maybe for someone’s homecoming parade. Some family visited this weekend and went with me to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art up in Bentonville yesterday. Today, we went to Eureka Springs, a small town to the northeast that’s home to hundreds of artists and shops.
And tonight, I went to see “The Book of Life,” a beautifully animated romance and adventure story based around the Mexican holiday called el Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The observance, which is coming up this weekend, is a celebration of loved ones who have died, a way to remember them while enjoying food and color and light and taking away the sting and dread of death.
In the movie, the dead inhabit two realms: Those who have living descendants to remember them dwell in the boisterously colorful and fun Land of the Remembered, while those who have no such legacy wither away in the cold, gray Land of the Forgotten.
It’s a family film, but like the holiday it celebrates, it dives into some of my deepest, most fearful questions: What happens when I die, and will I be remembered? I don’t think I’m alone with these thoughts.
Art, I think, is at least partly an attempt to answer those questions: to make something to remember, and to reach past the boundaries of a lifetime.
We have sculptures and buildings and paintings and books, but a lot of humanity’s art is temporary, like a group’s playing of the bagpipes for a crowd or an interaction on a sidewalk. Other art doesn’t come from us at all, like a sunset or solar eclipse. I like to think of photography as a way to record this art, to say, yes, you existed, and you did or made or were something worth seeing.