“Ajedrez / Chess.” Oil on Canvas. 30” x 40” (2009)
“The basic imagery of ‘Ajedrez’ comes from a dream I had when I was young. In it, I saw my grandfather as a muerto, a ‘dead one,’ being fed by my aunt. In the painting, however, it is my mother sitting at a chess table—he loved to play chess—feeding him his own ‘queen,’ representing the feminine. A window in the room looks out on his beautiful hometown of Guanajuato in colonial Mexico.
“My grandfather was an educated man in Mexico, having studied philosophy in the university, but was forced to leave during the bloody Mexican revolution. In the United States of the early-to-mid 20th-century, he could only find work in a factory and lived a somewhat dingy existence, somehow made worse by the knowledge of a world of grandeur within him.
“Though he was an incredible man—almost legendary in my family—he was a poor father who could not manage to give his daughters the affection they needed. Thus, the painting ultimately depicts the victory of his daughters over him, feeding him his own queen. That is to say, they all became women of courage and substance who made good lives for their families.
“The interesting part of the dream was that, although I had seen Dia de los Muertos, ‘Day of the Dead’ imagery as a child in Mexico, I was not aware of the holiday itself or the custom of ‘feeding the dead’ when I had the dream. And yet, the dream’s imagery was exactly in accord with the traditional beliefs!”
— Netanel Miles-Yépez