Last Friday was the opening night for The Dio de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) art exhibit at the Walker's Point Center for the Arts. This was the Milwaukee gallery's 19th year exhibiting altars, sculptures, and paintings that honor the Day of the Dead celebration. I've attended this event for several years, and each time it has been different. I'm going to assume that most of you are familiar with these celebrations, but I'll provide some basic information along the way.
The Walker's Point gallery is in a new location this year. The new building has a glass window in front, which is perfect for displays. This is what I saw as I approached the building.
That glamorous skeleton is of course, Marilyn Monroe. The base below her feet reads "Happy Birthday Mr. President."
This is kind of a sexy view. Check out that spinal cord!
Next to Marilyn, some little skeleton kids and their skeleton dog play with a pinata. There's Mexican candy all over the floor.
Above them hangs papel picado. I made some of these years ago when I worked for a children's art program. I was working in a park setting, so anyone could join in the projects. Some of the kids we were working with ran off to get their grandparents, because the grandparents actually had experience with this! Papel picado is a lot more challenging to create than it looks. I thought these skull designs were impressive!
Here's a nice view of Marilyn from the front.
Day of the Dead is a way of honoring those who have passed away. Ofrendas are left out for the dead in an act of remembrance. Lost loved ones are left food, personal belongings, objects that reflect their work or hobbies, and sometimes skeletal representations of the deceased. Marigolds are commonly seen with these displays, because they are the traditional flower for Day of the Dead.
Anyone who has been around Marigolds, knows they have a strong scent. The scent is believed to be so intense, that it can lead the spirits home.
Marilyn wasn't the only celebrity being honored at this event. An altar was built for Elizabeth Taylor.
I realize that the woman in the painting looks nothing like her, but the eyes had been colored purple. She's also wearing a lot of bling. I like to the think the man behind her is Richard Burton.
There was also a Michael Jackson tribute! Do you see the dancing skeleton at the bottom? I think I saw that prop at Target. As I remember, it plays "Beat It" but "Thriller" would make more sense. If you own one of those dancing skeletons, remind me what it sings!
One of my favorites was the Frida Kahlo tribute. It was so colorful and filled with joy. The artist made paper butterflies and hung them around her and on the little trees surrounding her portrait. You can't see it here, but there were little paintbrushes sitting beneath her.
Here are a few photos from the tributes people made to their family members and friends.
I love that sassy little skeleton with the crossed legs! I'm guessing the person this is dedicated to liked smoking Camels.
This little scratchboard skeleton was one my favorite pieces there.
In my eyes, these two skeletons are Gomez and Wednesday Addams. They were printed on some fabric that was hanging from a table.
Plenty of works of art were displayed among the altars. This banner was high up on a wall.
An artist built a miniature bar with little drinking skeletons inside. This is a photo I took through the bar's doorway.
The little bar sat on top of an amazing metal skeleton sculpture.
Aside from the Marilyn sculpture, the next skeleton was probably my favorite piece there. She actually reminds me of a teacher I had! Isn't it great how she's reaching out of the frame?
There was also a musical performance at the gallery. The musicians played little guitar-like instruments and sang songs from different regions of Mexico. I think these may be the instruments they were playing: Mexican Vihuela. Correct me if I'm wrong. There was also a little dancing. They talked about how the stomping acted as drumming, at a time when African influenced Mexicans were being suppressed by the Spanish. The African influence was new to me, so I might have to research that.
It was so generous of this community to share their history and traditions with anyone who wanted to visit the gallery! I love learning about different cultures and perspectives.
The Mexican view of death is colorful and filled with joy as well as sadness. I think this is a much more healthy way of expressing grief and looking at death in general. In America, people seem more in denial about death. We don't even want to think about it, but this felt like a celebration!
I found a skeleton that I think is a good representation of me. See her camera?
Relating myself to a skeleton sculpture, made me think about what might be on my own display, if someone close to me made one. I wonder how it would compare to what I would design for myself? I'm not trying to be morbid, I just wonder what those close to me would think was most important to include.
If you'd like to see a little of the real deal, here's a beautiful video taken in a Mexican cemetery for Day of the Dead:
Now, I know this is the never ending blog post, but there are two more things...
1. One of my blog friends, VainGlorySinner did a beautiful job of making up her face for Day of the Dead. She shared these photos about a week ago, but if you haven't seen them, you must! Here's a link:
VainGlorySinner transformed into a sugar skull
2. If any of you want to join in for the virtual Halloween party I'm having, please send me a photo of yourself in costume. I'm putting that blog entry up on October 27th. You can email your photo here:
I'm off to the country today to make a deluxe caramel apple at a caramel apple bar! It's a beautiful Autumn day, and I hope to take lots of photos to share.