WHO: Sandra Mastroianni, Owner
WHAT: 7th Annual Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead Exhibit
WHERE: Cactus Gallery and Gifts, 4534 Eagle Rock Blvd. Eagle Rock, CA 90041
WHEN: October 8, 2011 to November 8, 2011
WHY SHOULD YOU GO?: To enjoy the spirit of Halloween from a whole new angle with gothic Mexican art.
Art by Ivan Godinez
I love living in Los Angeles because you don't just get one Halloween, you get two. The Day of the Dead celebration has it's own iconography, but the art goes beyond the usual witches, vampires and Frankenstein's monsters to reveal a world that is gorgeous in it's arcane significance. The imagery is unique to Southern California...a melding of the ancient and the modern.
Art by Ulla Anobile
To the tourists it's just skulls, graves and candy. But under the surface, beneath the imagery, there is a deep symbolism at work. Beyond religion, culture, celebration and ritual, ancient Mesoamerican customs still survive after more than 5,000 years.
Cactus Gallery and Gifts will be presenting the 7th Annual Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead Exhibit. The exhibit is open to the public and features paintings, wood cut-outs, sculptures, dolls, photographs and other visual media celebrating a holiday dedicated not just to death, but to life, family and nature.
One popular symbol is a beautifully dressed woman with a skull for a head, parallel to the European Grim Reaper. Carved, painted, tattooed and illustrated, this solemn, elegantly clad figure has many names: La Catrina, la Flaca, la Huesuda, Fancy Lady and la Pelona, but she is popularly known as La Muerta...Lady Death.
La Muerta is not a symbol of dread and fear, she is a reminder that life is for those who live it and love it the most. To celebrate death is to celebrate life by embracing the beauty of what is just a step in the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.
To one who has lived their existence to the fullest, with all of their heart, La Muerta is a figure to be admired. When the Spanish observed the Mesoamerican people in what seemed to them to be a morbid, ghoulish festival of death worship, they failed to see the underlying cultural context.
To people back then the holiday was a way of reconnecting with the spirits of lost loved ones and understanding the beauty of life's transience. La Muerta is a visual reminder of this ancient holiday, as families wash the gravestones of loved ones who have passed away, make offerings to their remembrance, and party like there's no tomorrow.
To the Aztecs she was worshiped as Mictecacihuatl, a goddess who was placated with offerings of food and drink to allow the souls of those who had died could journey onward to Mictlan, the realm of the dead, where they could finally rest. It's gratifying to think that as we eat, drink and be merry, thousands of years later she's still around to enjoy the fun.