Day of the Dead Tradition and Art at Casa de la Cuesta

By Alexis White

Casa de la Cuesta celebrates Day of the Dead with lectures, special mask museum hours, and exhibitions by a Oaxacan master weaver and a Mexican folk artist.

A talk about Day of the Dead altars and traditions is among the special presentations and exhibitions going on today and Saturday, 2-6pm, at Casa de la Cuesta, the Mexican folk art and antique-filled B&B that was just featured in Los Angeles Magazine.

The Casa de la Cuesta altar will be the 4pm focus on both days, when Heidi Levasseur talks about Day of the Dead traditions, including the many components of creating an altar, the ofrendas of food, water, and other necessities with which one welcomes the souls of loved ones, the use of cempasúchil and other flora, and the inclusion of things loved by the deceased. Ms. Levasseur, who describes herself as Casa de la Cuesta’s “main boss and flower arranger,” is an accomplished artist and teacher who has been lecturing about Mexican folk art, culture, and traditions for many decades. In addition to the large altar, she has filled the B&B with calacas, Catrinas and unique Day of the Dead pieces that the Levasseurs have collected during many years of living and traveling in Mexico.

Usually open by appointment only, Casa de la Cuesta’s The Other Face of Mexico Museum, recently featured in The New York Times, (“36 Hours in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico”), will be open on both afternoons. It is free, although a donation to the children’s charity Casa de Los Ángeles is appreciated. The Museum showcases more than 500 handmade, post-Conquest ceremonial masks from remote villages across the country. Bill Levasseur, who travels several times a year to ceremonies that go back hundreds of years, only purchases masks that have been used in dances or rituals, making them living pieces of history as well as works of art. The museum has photographs and a video showing their use in performance. Levasseur maintains a small showroom where he sells masks for which he no longer has exhibition space.

Throughout the two afternoons, the Casa de la Cuesta Gallery will host the Oaxacan master weaver Jacobo Mendoza and the Oaxacan-born folk artist Blanca Gómez. They will be exhibiting their work and are happy to answer questions about the techniques they use.

Mendoza, who comes from the world-renowned Oaxacan weaving village Teotitlán del Valle, creates both muted and brilliant rugs and wall hangings in traditional Zapotec themes. Using natural dyes, including cochineal, indigo, Mexican marigold, and plants grown by his family, he weaves tapetes finos from wool, silk, cashmere, and metallic threads. Many of these pieces are finished with intricate fringes created from the warps and are themselves unique in their artistry. Mendoza’s work was just featured in “The Art Is the Cloth,” an exhibition at the New Hampshire Art Institute. He also has shown at the Textile Museum of Oaxaca, the Peter Gray Art Museum in Puerto Vallarta, and the San Jose Art Museum. His weavings grace floors and walls of many homes in San Miguel as well as all over the world. During this exhibition, he will offer many of his pieces for sale.

Gómez, who hand paints delicate and colorful Oaxacan motifs, will exhibit her Mexican accessories and small furnishings, including miniature Mexican chairs. Many of these pieces are for sale as well. For further information, call 154 4324.


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