by Eleanore Catolico
Folk art-loving families gathered together in Pilsen to honor the Day of the Dead’s most mysterious yet outspoken figures. On Friday, Sept. 13, The National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) hosted an opening reception for its annual Day of the Dead artist exhibit but this time with a historical twist.
Entitled “100 Años De Posada Y Su Catrina,” the museum commemorated the 100th death anniversary of one of Mexico’s most popular folk artists, Jose Guadalupe Posada. Curated by Dolores Mercado, artists on both sides of the Mexican border showcased works inspired by Posada’s illustrations.
“He is an artist without a doubt, but during his life he was more understood as a craftsperson,” said NMMA assistant curator Cesareo Moreno. “He takes these sorts of spiritual icons of humanity and infuses them with life and humor and pokes fun at ourselves and our society.”
Coming from a working class background, Posada’s silly drawings of dancing skulls were mass produced in newspapers and broadsides across Mexico and contributed to the popularity of the skull in modern Mexican folk art today.
The evening reception was attended by hundreds of residents from across Chicago. Some of the museum patrons were in full La Catrina costume, which included elaborate black lace dresses, elegant jewelry and skeletal face paint.
Posada’s influence was evident in the artworks on display and in a variety of mediums including paintings, sculptures, hand drawn illustrations, installations and altars. Many of the artworks uniquely interpreted Posada’s iconic calaveras La Catrina and The Dandy. Eight original prints of Posada’s work from the museum’s permanent collection were also shown in the exhibit.
The artworks also ranged in concept, as some created more traditional ofrendas adorned in bright, spring flowers and mixed both Mexican and Catholic rituals and symbols, while others used modern artistic techniques to pay homage to those lost in contemporary tragedies.
New York based Dominic an artist Scherezade Garcia’s “Sandy Hurricane Altar,” was constructed out of cardboard cut into shapes of waves and painted in bright and dark blues, and depicting the Statue of Liberty in the eye of the storm.
“It seems like we cannot live without our IPhones, laptops and social media,” said Garcia in her artist statement. “The action of posting my condolences, my prayers and interacting with others provokes my imagination…[and] takes on the evolving imagery of a Twenty-First Century altar.”
In the spirit of the Mexican holiday, the NMMA celebrates lost lives in a culture that continues to pay respects to their ancestral dead and those loved ones in the here and now.
This post is also available in: Spanish