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SMUD Art Exhibition features work in the tradition of Dia de los Muertos

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¡Viva la Vida! Sacramento Area Artists and the Art of Dia de los Muertos, features the work of 12 Sacramento area artists and opens at the SMUD Art Gallery, 6301 S Street, Sacramento on Thursday, September 6, 2012. The public is invited to meet the artists at a FREE reception on Thursday, September 6, 2012, from 4 to 6 p.m.

The exhibition includes works by Raul Mejia, Rob-O, Gustavo Reynoso, Ryan “El Dugi” Lewis, John S. Huerta, Lila Solorzano, OC Thomas, Rosita Favela, Trent Harger, Ivan Rubio, Francisco Franco, and Sergio Martinez.
Paintings, tapestry, tattoo art, cut paper, and sugar are just some of the media being explored by these artists to illustrate the traditions and symbolism of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

Dia de los Muertos is a day of celebration observed throughout the world, though perhaps most commonly associated with the people of Latin America, particularly in Mexico and Central America, and more recently with Mexican Americans. The origins of the holiday trace back hundreds of years to observances and rituals of the Aztec people in Mexico. It is linked to a rich variety of popular customs resembling Halloween in many ways, but with a different origin and practices. The holiday honors the spirits of departed ancestors and loved ones who are believed to return to earth to celebrate with the living. It is a joyous occasion when the memory of ancestors and the continuity of life are celebrated.

Although the skeleton is a strong symbol for both Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, the meaning is very different. For Dia de los Muertos the skeleton represents the dead playfully mimicking the living and is not a macabre symbol. A great example of this is “Amor Eterno”, a diptych by Ivan Rubio, which depicts a playful, ongoing love affair between two souls in skeletal form. Another recognizable image of Dia de los Muertos is “La Calavera Catrina” or “The Elegant Skull”, a zinc etching done in 1910 by Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada. The image, often incorporated into artistic manifestations of the Dia de los Muertos, can be seen in a 36” x 60” tapestry by Sergio Martinez.

In the tradition of Dia de los Muertos, skulls, known as calaveras or calacas are a positive symbol, not only of death but also of rebirth. One of the main symbols or images seen during the festivities is the sugar skull – a decorative confection that traditionally bears the name of those being honored. Sugar skulls are typically decorated with stripes, dots, flowers and swirls and are usually whimsical and brightly colored – not morbid or scary. Artist Rob-O started working with sugar as a sculptural medium upon the passing of his mother and has since found his artistic passion. Imbued with metaphor, he has taken the tradition of sugar skulls to new levels with his elaborately decorated, inedible, framed skulls – ten of which will be on view.

Another traditional ritual is the donning of skull masks. A popular variation to this custom is the painting of skull imagery directly onto the face. Integrating the whimsical nature of the sugar skull with other symbolic and artistic influences has given birth to a more pop-culture quality in present-day sugar skull drawings, paintings, and tattoos.
 Examples of this iconography can be seen throughout the exhibition, with paintings, such as Lila Solorzano’s “Marley”, which depicts a sugar skull mask painted on a small child’s face, to John S. Huerta’s vividly colored “Mariposa”, and most subtly with Raul Mejia’s “Alive”, in which the painted face is merely hinted at. Also on view will be a photographic series of sugar skull tattoos by Ryan “El Dugi” Lewis.

The Art in Public Places Program was established by the City and County of Sacramento to provide visual art experiences in public locations through a percent-for-art program which reserves a portion of construction dollars from City, County or Redevelopment projects for public art.
The SMUD Art Gallery is a partnership between the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission with additional funding from the City and County of Sacramento.
The Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission is devoted to supporting, promoting and advocating for the arts in the region. For further information on programs and opportunities through the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission go to: www.sacmetroarts.org. SMAC is funded by the City and County of Sacramento.

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