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Dia de los Muertos: Images, Art, and Altar on display at Squires Student Center


BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 3, 2008 – Dia de los Muertos: Images, Art, and Altar, an exhibition featuring photographs from Mexico, artifacts from the festival, and both traditional and contemporary altars, will be on display at the Perspective Gallery in Squires Student Center through Saturday, Nov. 8.

The show will open with a lecture by Laurie Zuckerman on “Dia de los Muertos Cemetery Decorations and Ofrenda Altars: Colonial Mexico,” today at 4 p.m. in Brush Mountain Room A, Squires Student Center. An opening reception will follow in the Perspective Gallery at 5 p.m. The university community and public are invited to attend.

El Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a festive and colorful tradition celebrated in Mexico and throughout Latin America. Celebrations occur during the first two days of November and consist of visits to graveyards to remember those who have passed, preparation of favorite foods, dancing, and the construction of elaborately decorated altars in honor of the dead.

This festival, deeply rooted in the Aztec tradition, honors the continuity of life as it looks humorously upon death, warmly welcoming the spirits of the departed back to visit. The first day of the dead, Nov. 1, is reserved for honoring the souls of children, the little angelitos. On the following day, Nov. 2, adults are remembered. This is the time when the dead take their place beside the living to enjoy the fruits and flowers of the earth.

This Perspective Gallery exhibition contains photographic images from Mexico, folk art, and altars, both traditional and contemporary. The photographs cover four particular parts of the tradition: cemeteries, tapete (sand and flower paintings), sugar skull markets, and public and private altars. Several different artists have come together to share their fascination with this vibrant and colorful tradition.

University Unions and Student Activities, a unit within the Division of Student Affairs at Virginia Tech, is sponsoring Dia de los Muertos: Images, Art, and Altar. The exhibit is also made possible by the generosity of Virginia Tech’s Multicultural Programs and Services, as part of its celebration of Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month 2008.

For more information, call University Unions and Student Activities Art Programs Coordinator Mary Tartaro at (540) 231-4053.

Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday: noon to 10 p.m.

About the Artists
Laurie Zuckerman is a painter turned altar-maker. She obsessively creates altar installations from antique folk art and religious statuary, dolls, found objects, and paint. Her award-winning artwork is exhibited at museums, universities, and galleries around the country, and is profiled in several art books. To further her studies of Hispanic altars, Laurie travels to Colonial Mexico to photograph cemeteries, church shrines, and Day of the Dead ofrendas. Her photo series is included in this exhibition as well as her altar work.

Gilda Machin Scarpaci is originally from Cuba and arrived in the USA in the summer of 1967. She has a Bachelors degree in Fine Art. Her altar is an assemblage which reflects her childhood memories of Dia De Los Muertos and bridges the two cultures in her life. An artist of many mediums, she has traveled around the world and lived with her family in Blacksburg for the past 19 years.

Baldwin True North and Mindy North are distinct artists who have collaborated on this occasion to produce an altar based on the traditions they observed during their extensive travels in Latin America. They have also lent some of their collection from Oaxaca to this exhibition.

The Artgirlz is comprised of Pam McGraw, Robin Boucher, and Jennifer Collins, among others.

Pam McGraw has been involved in the Artgirlz for several years, collaborating on group expressions of art. As a Blacksburg High School art teacher she works with students from diverse backgrounds and abilities, exposing them to cultural experiences together with art techniques, procedures, and history through her Art 1 class.

Robin Boucher received an MFA in painting from Radford University and was the founding member of Artgirlz. She gardens, raises two children and teaches art to both children and adults from Chinkapin Hill Art Studio located at her home in Blacksburg.

Jennifer Collins is a painter who teaches drawing at Virginia Tech and Radford University, as well as running The Gallery in Radford.

Kathy Pinkerton has a BFA and MFA in painting and works in a large variety of media. She began making altars for the Black Madonna about 15 years ago which lead her to Our Lady of Guadalupe and other Mexican altars. A trip to Oaxaca for the Days of the Dead festival inspired the altar in this show. She is a Blacksburg resident of 30 years and as a child lived in Havana, Cuba. She has lent several pieces as well as a wealth of information and inspiration to this exhibit.