109 East 6th Street |  Walsenburg, CO. 81089
719.738.2858 |  info@museumoffriends.org

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2013 – Dia de Los Muertos

Open Wed through Sat, Noon to 4 pm. Call 719-738-2858 to make another appointment.

Welcome to this inaugural exhibition, dance performance and community event to celebrate the traditions of the Day of the Dead. It began with Nikita Lara Gonzales’ idea (an El Fandango dance alumna) to revive this day’s commemoration with hopes of making it an annual event in Walsenburg. During the last four weeks, educators, children, artists and the general public have come together to create a dance celebration, art exhibition and children’s workshops to help establish El Dia de los Muertos as a yearly parade, and program while learning more about its traditions. The exhibition on view is devoted to our loved ones who have passed and continue to speak to us and help inspire our lives and works.

Many of the themes refer to the essence of the Day of Dead – passing, depiction of skeletons, and the metaphorical understanding of place, tradition, and beauty. The striking still life painting, to the left of the main gallery is the work of Gretchen Orr’s mother, Ruth Sporleder. Gretchen and Mary Jo Tesitor lead the El Fandango dancers tirelessly as they keep the folkloric tradition alive and attempt to maintain our area’s Hispanic heritage. As the Day of the Dead is a joyous occasion where the living invites those who have passed away to the table to partake in their favorite foods, a still life reverberates the spirit of this day.

The origins of this celebration come to us from Aztec civilization where many Mexican and Latin American people of Indian heritage carry out the belief that the souls of those departed return to feast, dance and play. In many Dia de los Muertos traditions, it is understood that the life we live in the material world is actually the “dream”, while the life after death is the true life. Thus, the sometimes-comical folk art of skeletons at work and daily life, with fanciful flowers and symbols painted on skulls – Calaveras – prevail.

In this exhibition you will find a copy of Jose Guadalupe Posada’s “Gran fandango y fransachela de todas las Calaveras” (Happy dance and wild party of all the skeletons). Posada born in Aguascalientes, Mexico in 1852 helped to revive the art of engraving and is known for his calaveras (skeletons that display living characteristics). His works have become synonymous with the Day of the Dead. Originally the singular calavara meant skull, over time has been transformed by language to mean the entire skeleton. It may have been Posada and other artists of the time – an example, Manuel Manilla who helped to load the meaning with satire and often-political intent.
Also on view are photographs of an actual Day of the Dead altar from the home of Judy Morgan taken by Brian Orr. The area to the right of the entrance of the Museum is devoted to a recreation of a traditional altar set up in homes of the celebrants. It is an artwork designed by many participants who scratched at the surface of the meaning behind this complex event while encouraging community members to engage in the process. No one person can take claim – it is an offering in the hopes that this will grow into an annual happening – shedding more understanding and deeper appreciation of its power, and heritage. The photograph of the marigold refers
to the ritual use of it as celebrants drop petals from the altar to the door and out to the street walking towards the cemetery – symbolically creating a path for the spirits to find their way home.

Primarily celebrated in Mexico, and South America, El Dia de los Muertos has a place in Sicily as well. Tutti I Santi or All Saints Day is a religious and national holiday devoted to honoring all of the Saints, on November 1st. It is followed by Il Giorno dei Morti or the Day of the Dead on November 2nd. It is celebrated in much the same way with the offerings at a table, walk to the cemetery, and sharing of the “ossa ri muortu” (bones of the dead) a very dry meringue cookie.

In the last few decades the Day of the Dead Parade has reached into the realm of art and the urban experience. In such places as New York, San Francisco, Sacramento to name a few a new and varied approach is being made to keep this tradition alive. In the same spirit, the Museum of Friends has reached into its permanent collection expanding this exhibition to include works that may help to define its meaning. It is our hope that the multi-cultural reach and inclusiveness of the Dia de los Muertos Art display invites the viewer to stay, look and contemplate our remembered beloved family and friends who have departed.

We would like to thank all of the participants, The El Fandango Dancers, MaryJo Tesitor, Gretchen and Brian Orr, Judy Morgan, Joan Hanley, Katherine Emsden and The Space Gallery, Myra Trujillo and The Sangre de Cristo Youth, Vivian Scott and the Gardner School, Irene Grilley, Betty Stone, Diane Price, John Carlson, Diane Hanisch and the Peakview School, Bob Martin, Eddie West and The Lathrop Education and Training Center, Todd Oberheau and The Spanish Peaks Hospital, Art Bobian and The Spanish Peaks Community Foundation and Library District, Karen Clouse and The Downtown Revitalization Committee, Dorcas Circle, Walsenburg
Day Services, and the Huerfano World Journal.

Maria Cocchiarelli, Walsenburg, 2013