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Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009

Walker’s Point Center for the Arts’ Day of the Dead

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A recurring acknowledgement and celebration of the departed, El Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an important cultural event for a large segment of the world’s population. Although most closely associated with the folk traditions of Mexico and Latin America, Día de los Muertos is also observed in varying fashion in Haiti, the Philippines and many European nations.

The idea behind Day of the Dead is that the spirits of the deceased are allowed to return to the corporeal plane Nov. 1 to Nov. 2 each year. Friends and relatives celebrate the spiritual proximity to their lost loved ones with the construction of ofrendas (altars) commemorating the individual’s life, loves and preferred comestibles. In traditional Mexican folk art, the resultant remembrances are characterized by vibrant use of color. The skeletal image is centrally employed, unavoidably (if unintentionally) macabre, but mostly used in a down-to-earth, even comic context, a reminder that in the midst of life, we are in death. The departed, therefore, are represented as we happily remember them: dancing, playing fútbol, tossing back cervezas with amigos. The ofrendas can be composed of such elements as clothing, paintings and drawings, flowers (traditionally marigolds), toys, food and beverages and decorated candy skulls.

The Walker’s Point Center for the Arts (911 W. National Ave.) will open its 17th Annual “Día de los Muertos Exhibition” on Friday, Oct. 30, with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. The collection will be on display through Nov. 24.

Noting the pan-cultural importance of the holiday, curator Rosa Zamora says that last year's participants included Mexicans, Chileans, a Brazilian, Mexican Americans and people of non-Latino backgrounds. “Participants in our show come from all walks of life,” she adds. “Some are local artists, some are students (from our after-school art program to college groups from MIAD, Alverno and MATC) to local residents. Even though some do not call themselves ‘artists,’ they are all artists in our show.”