By Gail McCarthy
---- — A group of 15 local artists are marking Dia de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead — with their colorful artistic interpretations of this Mexican celebration, which stems from an ancient Aztec ritual. This special exhibit at Local Colors Artists’ Cooperative is open and runs through Nov. 8 at the downtown Gloucester shop.
“We want to celebrate the artists, family and friends who have gone before us and who have been our inspiration,” said Lois Hertzler, who organized this show with fellow members Donna Amero and Kathy Bucholska.
There will be a free fiesta reception Nov. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. with music and refreshments.
The exhibit will highlight Day of the Dead art, as well as a festive ofrenda, or altar, where the public is invited to write a note of remembrance for a loved one.
“It is a holiday that is often misunderstood by New Englanders as it occurs around the same time as Halloween,” said Bucholska in a statement. “Unlike Halloween with its scary characters, this holiday celebrates the return of departed loved ones two days a year with food, photographs, flowers and drink.”
This holiday welcomes back departed family members on the first two days of November through music, brightly decorated sugar skulls and orange marigolds. The event is intended to be a happy occasion to celebrate loved ones. Day of the Dead art often depicts brightly festooned skeletons doing everyday activities as imagined in the afterlife, according to the organizers.
“Since our cooperative’s anniversary falls at approximately the same time of year as the Day of the Dead, we are using this event as an opportunity to also celebrate our 24th anniversary and remember our humble beginning as well as the many artists who have passed through our doors,” said Amero.
Day of the Dead art often involves satire and humor about the human condition, and to that end, the window displays have a satiric theme.
Skulls appear in a variety of ways. Tin Can Sally created a mirror and frame of flowers, skulls and bones made from recycled tin. Bucholska and Kate Webster created jewelry using skull heads in various ways, including in stones and metals. Also offered are humorous Day of the Dead greeting cards.
One element of the show is a display featuring a life-size skeleton, named Miranda, who sports a tie-dye shawl by member Christine Garrigan, and which is seated at a wine barrel bistro table made by member Darren Taylor. There is a smaller skeleton, representing a chef, who is wearing an apron hand-made by Ian Commissiong.
“It’s a dinner that will never come as Luis, the chef, overindulges on ‘cooking’ wine and is, well, passed out with his spoon, empty wine bottle and pot,” commented Bucholska. “We tried to incorporate the artists’ work into our skeletons and at the same time offer something a passerby can smile at.”
Before coming to Local Colors, Garrigan worked with the Latino community in California where she was inspired by the community’s preparation for the holiday through the creation of art and remembrances. She learned the art of cutting paper in an intricate design for banners created out of colorful tissue paper, which will be on display with her tie-dyed mandala fabric creations.
Hertzler created photographs showing skeletons doing everyday activities such as listening to an iPod while reading a book, and photographer Dave Katz depicts a jubilant skeleton Red Sox fan. Meanwhile, Jim Sousa, inspired by Andy Warhol, offers a photograph of brightly colored skull heads in the Warhol tradition.
Other artists whose work is displayed are Bonnie Gray, Pat Doherty, Joe Higgins, Virginia Townsend, and Ann Schlecht. The artists invite the public to enjoy the show, and celebrate the free event on Nov. 2 at the gallery at 121 Main St. in Gloucester.
Gail McCarthy may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go What: Dia de los Muertos exhibition. When: Now through Nov. 8. Free fiesta reception Nov. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Where: Local Colors Artists Cooperative, 121 Main St. in Gloucester. How much: Free to the public; art for sale.