Kat Murrell
Death and Life

Día de los Muertos at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts

By - Nov 3rd, 2009 03:52 pm
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The opening reception of Día de los Muertos at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts.

The opening reception of Día de los Muertos at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts.

Papel picado, elaborately cut pieces of colorful tissue paper, hung from the ceiling, and the scent of roses filled the air. Flowers were placed throughout the galleries at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, arranged in vases and on memorial altars. People chatted and mingled as a trio of musicians sang plaintive, sweet songs in Spanish. The atmosphere of the opening of the Día de los Muertos exhibition on Oct. 30 was thoughtful and celebratory.

Día de los muertos, or Day of the Dead, has a long history, with origins that are traced back to the Aztec civilization and a festival in honor of the goddess, Mictecacihuatl, a.k.a. “Lady of the Dead.” With the influx and influence of the Spanish and Catholicism, the festival became conflated with All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), though the observance may last from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

It is a time of remembering the dead, commemorating their life and a way of celebrating with them once again. Altars are set up with decorations and ofrendas (offerings) — flowers and mementos, figurines and photographs and favorite foods.  Some imagery of the ofrendas is a familiar motif in Halloween iconography, particularly in the ubiquity of skulls and skeletons. But unlike the Halloween predilection for scariness, these skeletons are not seen as terrifying creatures, but reminders of the dead and mortality.

The altars throughout the gallery are exuberant in their colors, with lively decorations and cloths covering their multilevel surfaces; some cloths and coverings extend up the walls, creating a backdrop for the array of ofrendas. Accompanying text introduces the person or persons they are dedicated to. Some altars are devoted to a specific family member, others to groups of people.

Theys-Tovar and Ibarra altarPIC

Altar dedicated by L. Michel Theys-Tovar and Aidé G. Ibarra.

One altar is a symbolic representation of the cycle of life, mediation on themes of duality. As creators L. Michel Theys-Tovar and Aidé G. Ibarra state, “The principal of an eternal cycle is what we are celebrating this year with our altar. It is dedicated to no one and to everyone. It is celebrating at the same time the end and the beginning of the universe. ”

The installation continues through Nov. 24, and this marks WPCA’s 17th annual exhibition in honor of Día de los Muertos. As the year passes into another, it is a poignant time for reflection on these themes and images, in that the celebration of life includes remembrance of death.


17th Annual Día de los Muertos Exhibition
Oct. 30 – Nov. 24
Walker’s Point Center for the Arts
911 W. National Ave.
414-672-2787
Open Tuesdays through Saturday, Noon – 5 p.m.

Categories: Art, Arts & Culture

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