The Altar to Our Lady of the Shining Silver Sun is a shrine in the Latin American tradition dedicated to presenting the beatific highs and the exponentially nightmarish shades of losing touch with reality. It holds testimonials of strange and powerful visions in the form of retablos, colorful votives often seen in Latin American churches that mix painting and text to show gratitude for moments of divine intervention or miracles. The retablos and the collection of small personal items on the shelf that complement them are offerings on the theme of “visions” and/or psychotic disorders that become animated as one approaches the altar, presenting an environment where the perception of real and the unreal starts to stretch and rip apart.

The project consists of a shrine made from found materials with seven hand-drawn retablos. Underneath the series of retablos is a shelf with votives, objects related to the theme of visions/losing touch with reality, and other items referred to in the retablo vignettes. Items include: candles, bottles, broken eyeglasses and a wooden painted crucifix. A series of sensors detect the viewer’s proximity to the projection surface, and as he or she gets closer, the retablos become animated. The retablos are “exploded” out, using a mixture of projected images with physical surfaces such as paper, plastic, and glass. As people change their position to discover hidden layers, the theme of duality and transcendence of The Altar to Our Lady of the Shining Silver Sun is highlighted.

Each retablo is a vignette that centers around the character of José María Avila. By using the folkloric language and the bright vivid colors of the retablos, each illustration from one person’s account of events of a psychotic break is made more approachable and understandable. The project is not only for those who have been touched in one way or another by the effects of mental illness–it is meant also for all of us who have experienced something in our lives that cannot be easily explained or for those moments in which the everyday becomes transfused with the sacred.

music by Angélica Negrón

photo by Bavic8