25th Annual Day of the Dead Altars and Ephemera


The 25th Annual Day of the Dead Altars and Ephemera Exhibition is on view at
The Folk Tree from October 4 – November 2, 2008. The show features traditional
and other altars as well as work by local artists and Mexican folk art commemorating this major holiday. The public is invited to a reception on Saturday, October 4, from 2 – 6 P.M.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which falls on November 1 and 2, is a Mexican holiday honoring the dead. Ritualized worship of the dead has been practiced in Mexico since at least 1800 B.C. The modern holiday is a combination of pre-Hispanic and Catholic influences. Day of the Dead participants prepare elaborate feasts and create altars paying homage to the dead, and they indulge in festive celebrations of life and its aftermath. A time of reflection as well, the holiday has inspired a rich folk art tradition.

In honor of these dates, The Folk Tree annually invites area artists to assemble altars for people or events of significance to them. Highly personal, these altars often include photographs and other mementos, letters, candles and offerings of food. In addition to lost loved ones, in the past artists have created altars for victims of tragedies and violence, for well-known figures who have died, as well as for family pets.

Several artists have participated regularly over the years. Carolyn Potter, who pays homage to family members, has been a participant since the exhibit’s inception and incorporates her gourd and polymer clay art into her altar. Johanna Hansen uses her painted narrative ceramics in altars commemorating her son and mother. Nancy Ann Jones’ altar is interactive – visitors are invited to write their own messages and tributes. And once again this year, a Spanish class from the Sequoyah School in Pasadena led by their teacher, Michelle Milner, will create a group altar. Related artwork and objects are on view, including pieces by Abel Alejandre, Mary Clark Camargo, Sandra Gallegos,
Kio Griffith, Robert Llanos, and Miguel Angel Murillo. Day of the Dead themed jewelry by Alba Dandridge, Lucia Preciado, Lisa Rocha, and Lacey Waddell is also on view.

Mexican folk art objects created for the Day of the Dead are sold in the streets throughout Mexico in the weeks preceding the holiday. Many examples of these items are available at The Folk Tree. They are often made of clay, papier maché, tin and sugar. Those forms most commonly found are skeletons and skulls, often decorated to include a person’s name, or placed in little vignettes. Mexico’s artists express their creativity in various media in wonderfully humorous ways.

The Folk Tree is located at 217 South Fair Oaks Avenue, minutes walking distance from the Gold Line’s Del Mar station, and just south of Old Pasadena. Hours are: M-W, 11-6; Th-Sat, 10-6; Sun, 12-5. For more information, call 626/795-8733 or 626/793-4828.