The Folk Tree's 28th Day of the Dead Altars & Ephemera exhibition, on view from October 8 - November 5, features traditional altars honoring loved ones who have passed, as well as installations dealing with broader contemporary issues and concepts about death. Also on view is a large selection of work in various media by local artists and Mexican folk art commemorating this major Mexican holiday, which falls on November 1 and 2. The public is invited to a reception on Saturday, October 8, from 2 - 6 P.M. During the reception, The Folk Tree also welcomes art historian Paul Koudounaris, who will sign his recent and beautifully bound leather covered book “The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses,” which includes 250 full- color and 50 black-and-white photographs taken by the author.
Ritualized worship of the dead has been practiced in Mexico since at least 1800 B.C. The modern observance is a combination of pre-Hispanic and Catholic influences. Day of the Dead participants prepare elaborate feasts and altars as offerings. A celebration of life and its aftermath, the holiday is a time of reflection and has inspired a rich folk art tradition.
Altars on view at The Folk Tree are often highly personal and include photographs and other mementos, letters, candles and offerings of food. In the past individuals have created altars for deceased family members, pets and other animals, famous individuals, anonymous victims of tragedy and violence, as well as altars dealing with social and environmental concerns. This year a dozen altars are on display. Among others, altar artists include: Johanna Hansen (who memorializes her son and mother in an altar created with her painted ceramics that includes ofrendas or offerings to the public); Nancy Ann Jones (whose interactive altar invites visitors to write their own messages and tributes, which are ultimately burned in a ritual fire by the artist after the close of the show); and Christina Tafoya Esquibel, who pays homage to Frida Kahlo with a life size papier mache likeness and other tributes.
Related work in a variety of media is on view by over 50 area artists, and featured work from Mexico includes pieces by Mexico City paper mache artist Joel Garcia and ceramic figures from Capula, which are hand built, painted, and glazed. The many local artists represented include: Ulla Anobile (paper mache & felt); Cathy Ashworth (paintings & mixed media); Mary Clark Camargo (mosaics), Elizabeth Espinoza (papel picado); Flavia Zuniga-West (pinatas); Jose Eduardo Infante (photographs); Chris Madans (assemblage); Monica Rodriguez (cards); Leonard Martinez (Hello Kitty calavera t-shirts), Guillermo Perez (sugar skulls); and Day of the Dead themed jewelry by Carlos Gutierrez, Lisa Rocha, Rone Prinz, Juan Sigala, and Rossana.
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, paper maché, tin and sugar. Those forms most commonly found are skeletons and skulls, often decorated to include a person's name.
A time of celebration and contemplation, the appeal of the Day of the Dead holiday continues to spread outside its origins in Mexico. For its 28th consecutive year, The Folk Tree is pleased to participate in the observance of this rich tradition.
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.