Gallery Celebrates Day of the Dead

Erin Burris, Erin Burris, and Erin Burris

The Day of the Dead is one day of the year that deceased family members return to earth so that living members can celebrate their lives.

“Dia De Los Muertos” is an extremely unique and bold art exhibit that opened Oct. 30 at the Atkinson Gallery at City College.

The decorations are mostly made of sugar, as they are meant to be treats for eating at the end of the celebration. Decorations include figurines of skeletons, skulls both large and small, and tiny coffins. The skulls and coffins are decorated in a playful way, with colorful zigzags and striping patterns.

The display consists of multiple altars covered in vibrantly colored decorations to celebrate and honor the lives of dead.

The small figurines are positioned and painted in amusing ways to make light about death, which is the opposite of how many people think of death. To some, death is sad, something that is feared. However, the merging of Catholicism and Ancient Mexican culture views death in a different way.

The unique décor is meant to poke fun at the idea of death, according to Spanish Professor Juan Casillas of the School of Modern Languages, which helped to put on the art exhibition. “It’s sad that people pass, but you are not sad on the Day of the Dead because they are here in spirit,” Casillas said.

The art reminds the living that it is okay to smile, as the celebrated dead can be remembered for the positive memories.

In addition to the decorated objects, other smiling images are presented on the displays. The holiday’s traditional flower, the orange Marigold, and other large displays of flowers can be seen alongside photographs.

One of the altars was created by a City College Chicano Studies class and is dedicated to famous entertainers who have passed away, such as the praised singer Selena. It is decorated with miniature guitars representing the musical talent of these famed entertainers.

Other creative contributors to the Atkinson Gallery for the exhibit include the EPOS Club, the Single Parents Club, a Santa Barbara anti-smoking group and two other City College students created individual altars for family members.

The altars line the walls of the gallery beside hanging wall paintings created by Phil Lomeli. According Casillas, Lomeli creates a new painting each year that highlights famous men and women who passed away that year.

These beautiful and passion-filled paintings are highly innovative and inspired by events such as 9/11 and people such as Mother Theresa. The wall paintings added a deeper side to the Dia De Los Muertos exhibit. This new way of looking at death is good-natured in its hope to remember those no longer living.

The art exhibit proved that even death can be full of life, even if it is just one day a year.