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Virginia Cuthbert (1908-2001), The Day of the Fiesta, c. 1957; oil on canvas, 51 x 37 ½ inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Peter A. Vogt, 2007

Virginia Cuthbert (1908-2001), The Day of the Fiesta, c. 1957; oil on canvas, 51 x 37 ½ inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Peter A. Vogt, 2007

Virginia Cuthbert and her husband, Philip C. Elliott, traveled to Mexico in the 1950s. There she painted subjects and he photographed them. The Day of the Fiesta depicts a street strung with “papel picado” (literally “pecked or pierced paper”) banners that celebrate festivals and holidays. Designs for this folk art of cut tissue paper include birds, flowers, words, skeletons and other details set within a lacy background. They are displayed for both secular and religious occasions, including weddings, quinceañeras (a girl’s fifteenth birthday), baptisms, christenings, the Day of the Dead, and Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas. Considering the four young people dancing in the street, this might be the quinceañera for the girl dressed in a white dress—matching the white papels picados.--NW