ESCONDIDO — The “Colores de La Muerte” exhibition at the California Center for the Arts Escondido is more of a celebration than an art exhibit. Not only are the worlds of the living and dead brought together, but also the two very different nations of Mexico and the U.S.
Art curator Lisette Atala worked with El Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City, to bring 15 cars from the “Train of History” exhibit to the center.
The exhibit showcases turning points throughout the Mexican Revolution and highlights figures, such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, and the role religion and women played, all through skeleton figurines fashioned in the Dia de Los Muertos aesthetic.
A different artist or group of artists was responsible for each individual train car.
“I thought this is just amazing that each car is by a different artist. They created all these little details in each of the little scenes,” Atala said.
Atala secured free transportation of the train cars form Mexico City through Conaculta, Mexico’s National Endowment for the Arts funds. She said there were some problems getting the train cars through the border, because the Mexican government required certain paperwork to let the art pieces out of the country.
A collaborator from The Tijuana Municipal Institute for Arts & Culture helped get the paperwork underway and helped get the pieces safely to Escondido, Atala said.
Two collaborators from the department also helped install a giant alter in the museum to commemorate Mexican Noble Prize winning poet Octavio Paz, who would have been 100 years old this past March.
The center is celebrating its 20th Dia de los Muertos celebration where the community creates their own ofrendas, or offerings, on Nov. 1. Anybody can create an alter during the festival which starts at 6 p.m. Atala encouraged people to contact the Center of the Arts at (800) 988-4253 to reserve space.
The Mingei Museum in Balboa Park also loaned over 40 mixed media pieces to the exhibit.
“Many of the objects are small, exhibiting Mexican fondness for miniatures,” Director of Mingei International Museum Robert Sidner said. “Others express a characteristic broad sense of humor about the reality of death.”
The art from the Mingei and from El Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City, parallel each other, Atala said.
“In this exhibit, it speaks of art having no borders and we can also share in our community with two institutions that think alike,” Atala said.
A Dia de los Muertos short film is played every eight minutes by the same director who is releasing the upcoming feature film “Book of Life,” Jorge Gutierrez.
The short-film, Carmelo, was his thesis piece at the California Institute of the Arts and the connection to art curator Atala was serendipitous.
While attending a party at the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana, Atala met Gutierrez’ mother. She helped Atala get in touch with the director, who was extremely busy working on his full-length movie, which is now out in theatres. Atala was able to get his permission to show the animated short-film about a young matador.
The Latin rock group La Santa Cecilia performed Oct. 10 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Dia de los Muertos celebration. They also visited Del Dios Academy of Arts and Sciences for a free assembly.
The exhibit runs through Nov. 9 and is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $8 for non-members and children 12 years old and younger are free through October.