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Gallery celebrates Day of the Dead and new international annex

By Susan Page

Galería Atotonilco will celebrate the opening of a new international annex at its sixth anniversary with an open house. The event will also celebrate the Day of the Dead, featuring the work of two paper-maché artists: Abraham Rosales and Mauricio Hernández. A special, artist-created Day of the Dead altar, and refreshments, will be part of the gala event.

Open House
Celebrating the sixth anniversary of Galería Atotonilco
New international annex and Day of the Dead Celebration
Sat 6 Sun, Oct 27 & 28, Noon-5pm
Directions in our ad in this issue

International Annex

African baskets and textiles, Meji-era sushi servers, a museum-quality Mali wedding blanket, tribal medicine boxes from Burma, a ninteenth-century kitchen tansu, contemporary Japanese pottery –these are just a few of the gorgeous items in the new International Annex of Galería Atotonilco, already well known for its comprehensive collection of Mexican folk art and antiques.

Day of the Dead artists, Abraham Rosales and Mauricio Hernández

Tonalá artist Abraham Rosales was featured in the New York Times recently because of his imaginative Day of the Dead figures he creates out of paper maché. Galería Atotonilco had been collecting his work long before his recent surge in popularity and will display a comprehensive selection of his work at the Open House.

There are only two paper maché artists in the book, Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art. One of them is Mauricio Hernández, whose work has been exhibited throughout the United States in the traveling Banamex collection and is prominently featured in the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City. Galería Atotonilco is one of the few galleries in all of Mexico that represents his work and offers museum-quality pieces by him.

Day of the Dead Traditions Date Back 3000 Years

Skulls and skeletons appear with great frequency in Mexican folk art, especially around the annual Day of the Dead holiday. The reason for this reaches far back into Mexican history. More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. The Aztecs kept skulls as trophies, displayed them on walls and in temples, and used them during rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. The skulls honored the dead, who the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during an annual ritual. Unlike the Spaniards who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life.

The skulls and skeletons used in Day of the Dead altars and seen widely in Mexican folk art are not about death but rather about the duality of life and death, a statement that death is an integral part of life. These skeletons are never dead! They are riding bicycles, selling their wares, taking a shower, dancing, getting married, feeding their children, and generally enjoying life.

So when you see a skeleton or skull in a piece of folk art, realize that you are viewing a powerful symbol, rife with meaning, and are participating in a tradition that dates back 3000 years or more.

Directions to the gallery, located five miles north of town, can be found in the gallery’s ad in this paper, on the gallery web site (www.folkartsanmiguel), or by phoning the gallery at 185-2225.

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