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Featured Photo for September and October 1999
 

Grave marker at a cemetery in Alpine, Texas.   Copyright W. Blaine Pennington [blaine@butterfly.net].  Note:  Unauthorized use of this photograph without permission from W. Blaine Pennington is strictly prohibited.  To see more of this photographer's cemetery images, visit his website, "The Cemetery Series".

About the monument:

"This memorial is in a beautiful little cemetery near Alpine, Texas. I made the image as part of a photo series on cemeteries I have been working on for years. The image of this unusual memorial was made early one morning in June of 1992.

These types of very personal, handmade cemetery art; especially ones using wood and punched metal are rapidly disappearing. Some are weathering badly, some are neglected, and sadly, some are vandalized. It's a style no longer seen in contemporary cemeteries and it is sad that it will not be preserved much longer.

The Memorial is a wooden cross with carved ends, and it is painted white, although the paint is weathering poorly. In the center is what appears to be a galvanized metal shield nailed to the cross. A bouquet of red fabric roses are wired to the base of the cross. The shield on the cross appears to be a hand-cut piece of galvanized metal, such as used in old metal signage, roofing, barns and out buildings on modest farms in Texas, and elsewhere.

The handmade nature of the grave marker is typical of what one sees in the beautiful, touching and deeply personal memorials in Hispanic cemeteries in Texas, and elsewhere... Especially the older cemeteries; as the crafts of welding, ceramic tile work, hand-poured cement sculpture, punched "tin", etc., seem to be losing favor with contemporary generations.

An inscription is punched into the metal with some sharp implement: such as a punch, or perhaps a nail, etc. Although weathered, paint spattered and somewhat difficult to read, the following is the best I could make out of what the inscription says.

SRFRANCISO
AVILA
FALLECIOEE
DTA12DEAGOCTO
DE1937EDADG2ANOS
SUFAMILIA
DEDICANESTE
RECUERDOASU
MEMORIA

I am far from certain that is what it actually says, as some letters are very difficult to read and at least one seems to be reversed (the "N" in DEDICANESTE), but it is the best I can make of what I saw. Unfortunately, I speak little Spanish, and that also makes deciphering it more difficult for me.

The condition of both the paint, although chipped here, and the fabric flowers suggest that someone was still caring for this treasure as recently as a few years ago.

In my photographic work, I usually make no attempt to formally document a gravesite or record all the known information about a specific person. My intention is more of a personal investigation into the imagery, and rich cultural artifacts to be found in cemeteries, using my own interpretation of the documentary tradition of photography.

While I understand the pressing need, and applaud other efforts for formal documentary record keeping for purposes of genealogical research, that has not been my primary intention. I have been more interested in focusing an artists eye on the social anthropology and cultural geography of cemetery art, statuary and the landscaping of the nineteenth century garden cemetery, as well as the hand-made and folk art memorials in Hispanic and other cemeteries in the American South. This largely unstudied and under-appreciated wealth of folk art, culture and tradition seems too important to let it slip away."

- W. Blaine Pennington

 

 

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