Dia delos Muertos

Halloween may have already spooked enough celebrators until next year, but honoring the dead has only recently begun for the SFA College of Fine Arts.

The fine arts department is hosting an exhibition titled “Dia Delos Muertos: The Art of the Living and the Dead” at the Cole Art Center located at 329 E. Main St. in downtown Nacogdoches from now until Jan. 4. The operating hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 12:30 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dia Delos Muertos – which translates to “day of the dead” – is primarily a Mexican holiday, but one celebrated around different countries throughout the world. The holiday is connected to the Roman Catholic Church during the 11th century where those part of the religion would say special prayers for loved ones who have passed on from this life. Coinciding with Hallowmas, the holiday lasts for three days beginning on Halloween: All Hallows Eve, Oct. 31; All Saints Day, Nov. 1; and All Souls Day, Nov. 2. This exhibit focuses mainly on All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

Once Catholicism made its way to Mexico, it became a three-day long celebratory event honoring those who have passed, which is now known as Dia Delos Muertos.

Honoring the dead during Dia Delos Muertos is done in a number of ways, including visiting cemeteries to celebrate around loved ones’ graves. Known as altars once they are decorated, the graves become a tribute showered with belongings from the now-deceased family member or close friend cherished during their lifetime.

SFA fine arts professor and director of the exhibition Dr. John Handley said people gather around the graves to  eat and celebrate because it is a way of “inviting [deceased loved ones] to come and spend a couple of days with you in spirit.”

Displays for this exhibit were not only fabricated by SFA fine arts’ staff and faculty members, but professional artists from all over Texas— including Dallas, Lubbock and Lufkin-—contributed art as well. Wally Knight, a local artist, contributed a piece as well.

Much of the art located on the first floor of the Cole Art Center are altars to someone who has passed. One such display was brimming with the person’s favorite drinks, records of the music they enjoyed hearing, an assortment of candy, pictures of their family and other miscellaneous items displaying the accomplishments and events they went through in their life.

To encourage more involvements from visitors, the art center has set up a community altar. This allows anyone who visits the museum to bring in a printed photograph of someone important they have lost in their life and display it on the wall. The station also has slips of paper for people to write information and their fondest memories of the person they are honoring.

The second floor of the Cole Art Center is hosting two other displays as part of the Dia Delos Muertos theme.

Students from Lufkin High School contributed their art with a display called “Masks and Calaveras,” or “Masks and Skulls” in English. Over a dozen students created masks with their own interpretations behind the designs, with each one explained through a video at the start of the gallery.

The other display features serigraphs — also known as screen printings—by John August Swanson, a professional artist from Las Angeles. Using anywhere from 40 to 89 colors in each of his paintings, Swanson’s serigraphs feature artwork from a variety of different cultural aspects, including the circus, operas and Mexican celebrations. Each painting was shipped directly from Los Angeles thanks to a grant from Humanities Texas, which also made the rest of the Dia Delos Muertos exhibit possible.

In addition to the exhibits, there will be a lecture on the holiday of Dia Delos Muertos itself at 6 p.m. on Saturday in the Cole Art Center. Following the lecture, there will be a party—rather, a fiesta— at 7:30 p.m. in the alley next to the art center. This party will feature free food and refreshments as well as a fundraiser for the SFA College of Fine Arts. They will be selling t-shirts and auctions for art, where half of the money earned will go toward the College of Fine Arts while the other half will be for scholarships for fine arts students. 

Handley welcomes everyone to the exhibit and fundraiser, describing the ongoing event as one with “great family appeal for the holidays.”

For more information on the event, call the Cole Art Center at 936-468-1131 or visit the fine art’s website atwww.finearts.sfasu.edu.



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