The Mexican Día de los Muertos tradition dates back a thousand years, to the time of the Aztecs. But what really popularized the Day of the Dead, says Carlos Fresquez, Metro State art professor and juror of tonight’s Day of the Dead Art Show, was artist José Guadalupe Posada. “He was an illustrator who animated these skeletons doing various everyday-life things — riding a bicycle, getting married,” Fresquez explains. “And that was really the seed that kind of took off, and a lot of his work has been appropriated. The Grateful Dead, for example, used a lot of his imagery.”
Even for Fresquez, art was the key to understanding Día. “It wasn’t something we celebrated in my family,” recalls Fresquez, who hails from southern Colorado. “It wasn’t really a part of my history at all. It was something I adopted and made a part of my personal history.” He did that about twenty years ago, after attending Día shows at Pirate gallery and the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, and he’s been celebrating the tradition ever since. And even though he acknowledges that Day of the Dead art can contribute to some popular misconceptions — including the mistaken notion that it’s like a Mexican Halloween — it can also serve as the gateway into a fascinating culture. “Life is fragile,” Fresquez says. “You begin to understand the importance of living.”
The show, which opened in October, features the work of Fresquez and a multitude of local Día artists; see it and meet the artists from 4 to 9 p.m. this evening at Studio 12 Gallery, 209 Kalamath Street, unit 12. Admission is free; for more information, visit www.studio12gallery.com.
Mondays-Saturdays. Starts: Oct. 20. Continues through Nov. 11, 2011