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Life Arts

Celebrating the Day of the Dead Nov. 1-2

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Fiesta Skull by Meryl Ann Butler (det.)

El Dia de Los Muertos, also called the Day of the Dead, is traditionally celebrated in Mexico and by Latin Americans around the globe on Nov. 1st and 2nd.

A lively holiday, it honors the departed with music, dance, "bread of the dead," and favorite foods of the deceased.

Building private altars to honor the dead is a pivotal tradition of the celebration. Altars are copiously decorated with an assortment of objects that may include sugar skulls, marigolds, and photos of the deceased. Scholars trace the origin of the holiday to an ancient Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess known as Lady of the Dead.

The Dia de los Muertos exhibit, at the Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene, OR, opened on Oct 15 with a Fiesta Reception. The exhibit continues through Nov. 6.

OEN contributors Meryl Ann Butler and Gail Davis at the Kerns

During the reception John Sarantos ( played evocative tunes on reproductions of ancient Aztec flutes.

Day of the Dead altars offered favorite foods for the departed amidst a gallery full of art and decorations such as traditional papal picado artwork (cut tissue paper pennants).

Cheryl Marquez of Soquel, CA, creates a beautiful and complex altar every year at her restaurant, Tortilla Flats.

It features an artful collection of Day of the Dead figurines, along with a traditional sugar skull that she decorated, and a real raven skeleton that she painstakingly glued together.

The 12th Annual Northern Sierra Foothills Altar Show was open at the Nevada County fairgrounds from Oct. 24 through Nov. 1. The display was offered in association with the nonprofit organization the American Victorian Museum, Inc. ( and showcased 45 altars by individuals and groups.

Brenda Collins danced with the theme of freedom in Permission to Fly.

Sharon Mackie honored her grandmother in Grandma Jessie: A Treasure Beyond Gold.

The Sierra End of Life Providers offered an interactive altar made from prayer flags of recycled fabrics. Viewers could make a flag from provided materials and add theirs to the tree.

A sitting area was dedicated to well known artist Laurel Burch of Novato CA, who passed away on Sept. 13 at 61. The area was decorated with fabrics and pillows commercially made from her popular artwork and a copy of one of her books.

Earth Prayer by Lin Schiffner featured a stunning quilted image of the planet with symbols of the world's great religions.

Artists Sue and Gary Foster of Carmichael, CA, and their daughter and son-in-law, Mignon and Christopher Schreuder, along with friends of all ages, co-created an ingenious Halloween/Day of the Dead happening, beginning on Friday night, Oct. 30th, and extending through the weekend.

The opening event was overflowing with imagination and creativity, from the reversed text on the invitation that required a mirror in order to read it, to a life-sized, Day of the Dead mural that was called the "life" of the party.

The 8' x 8' painting by visiting artist Meryl Ann Butler had cut out holes for guests to put their heads through for thematic party photo ops, and was embellished generously in true Mexican tradition with glitter and rhinestones.

Inspired by the Northern Sierra Foothills Altar Show, on Sunday night the Fosters held a Day of the Dead Potluck Gathering for friends and family to build a collective altar.

All photos by Meryl Ann Butler except photo of Meryl Ann and Gail which is courtesy of John Sarantos, and detail photo of Meryl Ann and the Day of the Dead mural which is courtesy David Roberts.



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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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