After Halloween’s gone, the art of Dia de Los Muertos continues

By Randi Bjornstad

Halloween’s about over except for gobbling the loot, but the official Dia de Los Muertos is just getting started, and the Maude Kerns Art Center with its accompanying juried exhibit of paintings, sculpture and photography by 33 artists, plus altars created by community groups, is continuing through Nov. 4.
The pieces in the show come from artists from four of the United States as well as the state of Oaxaca in Mexico.
The highly celebrated Mexican holiday that commemorates the lives and death of the dearly departed comes not on Oct. 31 but Nov. 1 and 2, repeating ancient rituals of providing food, flowers and gifts to entice the spirits of the dead to spend a few hours communing with those left behind.
The dates correspond with the All Saints and All Souls days observed — primarily with church services — in European religious traditions.
But it is the Mexican version that led the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to designate Dia de Los Muertos as an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” eight years ago.
The art that accompanies the holiday is characterized by lots of skeletons and skulls, but unlike the macabre renditions of graveyards and monsters that people in this country put out to scare wee ones as they make their trick-or-treat rounds, in Mexico the bony folk tend to be friendly and smiling.
They’re often clothed in their very best, and they’re portrayed not as frightening but carrying on the same activities they did in life, such as enjoying a drink in a cantina, driving the family car or picnicking with the family.
Of course, the inclusion of some local artists in the show guarantees some whimsical mixes of the Mexican sensibility with distinctly Eugene pastimes, such as Melissa Sikes’ paintings that show happy skeletons running the Eugene Marathon, taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of the Saturday Market and enjoying the ambiance of the Owen Rose Garden.
The exhibit will remain open at the center at 1910 E. 15th Ave. through Nov. 4, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
For information, call 541-345-1571 or go online to mkartcenter.org.

Randi Bjornstad

Has more than 30 years' journalism experience after a previous stint as a land-use planner. Got first rejection slip at age 11, but the editor wrote an encouraging note. Lives in Eugene, Ore., with husband-and-photographer Paul Carter, adorable dog Tallulah and quirky cats Pearl, Audrey, Garbo, Harry and Ozma.

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