Jerry Vigil wants you to know that the Carreta de Muerte — or “Death Cart” — has nothing to do with Day of the Dead. “It actually has to do with Holy Week,” the artist explains. Here’s the story: A long time ago, the Catholic Spaniards who had colonized southern Colorado pulled out of the area and took their religious infrastructure with them, leaving laymen, or “penitentes,” to take over the religious life of the community. During Holy Week — the week preceding Easter, which is generally the zenith of the Hispanic-Catholic religious year — one of the traditions that emerged under those penitentes was that of the “death cart,” in which the religious followers would wheel the cart around town to symbolize the figure of Death passing through.

During the month of August at the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, Vigil and three other artists are collaborating on their own Death Cart, which will be the centerpiece of an exhibition showcasing all four artists’ individual work. Although he concedes that it’s not Holy Week now, Vigil says, “The reason we’re bringing it out now is we just wanted to do a contemporary version. The items on the cart represent current human vices, like cards, alcohol, drug paraphernalia — stuff like that.”

And, really, when we’re talking about death carts, who needs a reason? The exhibit, titled Cada Mente es un Mundo (Every Mind Is a World), features the work of Jerry Vigil, Stephan Armijo, Michael Canada and Rob Yancey. It opens tonight a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at CHAC, 772 Santa Fe Drive, and stays up through August 28; for information, call 303-571-0440 or visit
Aug. 6-28, 2010