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That's Dead

Dmitry Tsvetkov, Linor Goralik

Opening April 9, 2009

Twelve-year-old Maria Jesusa de Solorsano of Mexico is a rare example of a wunderkind whose talents lie not in one of the commonly rewarded pursuits Ц such as music or mathematics Ц but in an altogether unusual field. She excels in the funerary arts. When Maria was just a little over ten, her father, Jesus Christophor Jimenez de Solorsano, died suddenly due to a perforated ulcer of the pancreas. Her father's death made an unforgettable impression on Maria Jesusa, but today, she admits freely that what affected her most poignantly was the colorfulness of the wreaths sent by friends, acquaintances, and firefighter colleagues to her father's funeral. "It was terrifying, beautiful, and unforgettable," says Maria Jesusa. "And very painful: my father was a unique man, but all of his wreaths looked like one another. I saw with my own eyes as some of our relatives bought a faceless wreath right at the entrance to the cemetery! Prior to that moment, I had not cried, but when I saw that, I started weeping and could not stop. That wreath quite simply insulted the memory of my father."

Next day, Maria Jesusa de Solorsano came to the very funerary shop near the cemetery where her relatives had bought that wreath before her eyes and told the owner that she wanted to learn how to make funeral wreaths. Looking at the ten-year-old girl whose eyes were still puffy from tears, the owner unequivocally refused to take her on as a student. But the de Solorsano family supported her; in Mexico, death is treated with great respect. Thus, a very young Maria Jesusa began to study the art of making funeral wreaths. Her teacher became an aging immigrant from Russian, Valery Markovich Fayman, who immediately saw in the girl the makings of a great artist.

"At first, I simply wanted to make a wreath for my father and bring it to his grave," says Maria Jesusa, whose fame today, only two years after she has started her apprenticeship, has spread far and wide all over Mexico. "But very soon, I realized that the Lord had given me the gift of understanding people and making them happy in death. I simply looked at the photograph of the deceased which the relatives brought me and created a singular wreath which might have been a portrait of this person's soul." Soon, Maria Jesusa could no longer fill the flowing orders and selected only those which truly touched her soul. Valery Markovich helped the girl in every way he could, but soon it was he who became the apprentice and spiritual adviser rather than a teacher of the miraculous girl. "Once a woman came to Maria Jesusa and brought a wedding picture. She said that she and her husband were getting divorced and that it was very hard for her," Valery Markovich remembers. "This woman asked Maria Jesusa to create a wreath to put on the grave of their marriage. She said that only then would she be able to appreciate in earnest that she has become a free woman." Valery Markovich was stunned by such a request, but Maria Jesusa agreed right away to help the woman. "Death is when something ends forever, that's all," says Maria Jesusa. "I help people to mourn that which has gone irrevocably, be it a person or something else." Many keep the wreaths created by Maria Jesusa at home so as to be reminded of the challenges they've lived through and that these things have been left behind.

One autumn day, Maria Jesusa came to her workshop to find Valery Markovich crying as he laid his head on a Russian newspaper. In two years, Maria Jesusa had managed to fall in love with Russia in that complicated way in which her teacher loved his abandoned motherland. She even learned a number of Russian words. Valery Markovich told her that he had read some bad news: the Russian ruble had fallen to its lowest point in a decade. Russia was in danger of a real catastrophe. Twelve-year-old Maria Jesusa felt so sharply the grief of a country which she had welcomed deep into her heart that overnight, not having slept a wink, she created a unique wreath, "On the death of the ruble, which through God's will died very young having barely had time to accomplish anything." Another time, the loss by the Russian women's volleyball team of an Olympic qualifying tournament so upset Maria Jesusa that for the first time, she sacrificed several of her Barbie dolls so as to express her grief through the language of funerary art.

From that time on, the very young Maria Jesusa de Solorsano of Mexico follows Russian news closely and responds to the changes in the fate of our country, both major and minor, with sad and beautiful works of art, which can be born only of a very young, very pure heart that loves Russia very much.

Linor Goralik
Translation: Ksenya Gurshtein

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