Halloween overlaps with the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, in which they celebrate the recently deceased. Full of imagery of death such as skeletons and skulls, the Foothills Arts Council opened an exhibition that shows the potential artistic beauty of this tradition on Friday with “Memento Mori & dia de los muertos.” This exhibit is expected to run for at least four weeks.
The centerpiece of this exhibit is a Mexican altar created by Reyne Ortiz of El Ahorro Restaurant, in honor of her husband’s uncle who passed away four years ago. These altars always feature of photograph of the individual and is surrounded by foods and drinks they favored as well as candles, “to light their way from the other side,” according to Ortiz. An important tradition to those of Mexican heritage, these altars are usually set up from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 coinciding with Catholic holidays “All Saints Day” and “All Souls Day,” and they focus on celebrating the recently deceased only.
In addition to the altar, Ortiz brought along a living example of “La Catrina.” A Mexican interpretation of “the Grim Reaper,” “La Catrina” may look scary, but she is not mean. According to Oritz, “La Catrina is a skeleton guide…welcoming (us) to the other side. We all must die,” and to Oritz she is a comforting chaperone for the inevitable. Also known as “the Elegant Skull” or “the Dapper Skeleton,” “La Catrina” is always depicted as a well-dressed female skeleton and can be found in various Hispanic traditions.
Complementing this altar were several paintings and drawings including a series done by North Carolina artist Erica Steffensen. After observing what she calls “the Fellow” sitting around her home, she decided to explore the intricacies of the human skull with oil paint. Steffensen said this past summer she looked at “the Fellow” and said, “You may not have been anybody in life, but you’re going to make me famous!” Wanting to be an artist since she was in the first grade, Steffensen was pleased to have a showing away from her studio in Winston-Salem. “This seems like a community of people who really know each other,” according to Steffensen who was happy to be a part of Elkin for the evening.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.