This gallery features art related to Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a multi-day holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and parts of Latin America between October 31st and November 2nd. On Día de los Muertos, the dead are believed to awaken from their eternal rest to share remembrances with their loved ones. The most familiar symbols of Dia de los Muertos are calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls), which appear in candied sweets, parade masks, and as sculpture art. Calacas and calaveras are not meant as morose symbols of death, but represent the Mexican belief that the dead should be remembered with joy. Calacas sculptures are often shown wearing festive clothing, dancing, and playing musical instruments to indicate a happy afterlife. The calacas and calaveras of Día de los Muertos also draw from the illustrations of Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada (1852 to 1913). Posada’s drawings and etchings satirized and exposed the Mexican society of his time. His La calavera Catrina, originally calavera Garbancera, is a frequent sculptural figure in Día de los Muertos festivities. This ornately dressed female skeleton with a plumed hat was created as a social critique of those who admired the European bourgeoisie and despised their own Mexican-ness.
Día de los Muertos folk art and handicrafts are created all over Mexico and even in the United States and other parts of the world. There are several artisan families in Mexico that are acclaimed for their Día de los Muertos folk art. The Castillo family from Izucar de Matamoros, Puebla, Mexico, were some of the first to introduce their style of intricate and colorful painting on polychrome clay to Día de los Muertos art. The family first produced Día de los Muertos candle holders, but may be best known for their skulls covered in butterflies. This gallery features art from the Ramirez and Montesino families of Izucar de Matamoros who, like the Castillo family, create colorfully designed and handcrafted polychrome ceramic candle holders adorned with skeletons. The candle holders in this gallery are wonderful examples of the Izucar style. Another family known for representing Día de los Muertos in art is the Linares family from Mexico City. The Linares family are masters of cartonería or papier-mâché. Pedro Linares (1906-1992) drew fame for creating the fantastical creatures known as alebrijes in cartonería. He was also one of the first artists to represent Posada's skeletons in cartonería. Miguel Linares, Pedro’s son, and Elsa Linares, Pedro’s grandaughter, inherited Pedro's workshop and have continued his labor promoting Posada's work and Mexican culture. This gallery includes a few examples of cartonería, including a skeleton riding a bicycle, a beautifully painted calavera, and a large catrina figure made of both cartonería and other materials.
This gallery, though small, invites you to explore the many ways and styles that Día de los Muertos is embodied in art. The museum intends to continue collecting and displaying Día de los Muertos folk art and celebrating the work of artists whose intense imagination makes this holiday so special.