Re-membering our Ancestors: Discovering Ourselves, an exhibit curated by California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) Professor David Avalos, proclaims, with vivid colors and creative displays, the sense of loyalty people have to one another in life and in death. The exhibit is open now through Sunday, Nov. 22 at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
Re-membering is influenced by the Mexican holiday commonly referred to as Day of the Dead and the spiritual philosophy that society should embrace death as a part of living.
“In Mexican culture, there’s a profound belief that deceased family members and loved ones return at this time of year,” said Avalos. “It’s a time to make a reconnection, to remember them as members of the community, to acknowledge the duality of life and death, and to acknowledge the ability to communicate from the material world to the spiritual world. In our society, people are constantly fetishizing over youth, but there’s also a great willingness to embrace and recognize that in order to be fully human we have to die.”
To portray this philosophy in a museum setting, Avalos worked with museum staff members, Leah Goodwin, Stella Karl and Kirsten Vega, as well as 20 artists over two months to select 100 various pieces of art that remember ancestors or loved ones. The exhibition includes displays of ceramic skulls and papier-mâché figures, paintings, memorial replicas and a mixed media installation by Ned Imming, a former student of Avalos and CSUSM alumnus.
“We wanted to accomplish a continuum between popular art forms, folk art forms and other works that are more often associated with museums,” explained Avalos. “It all coincides with the idea of remembering people.”
Aside from being the curator, Avalos also has some of his own work on display. His personal favorites tend to be the work of other artists that successfully allowed him to appreciate life or the world in a different way.
“The word brilliant gets tossed around quite a bit when discussing working with David,” said Stella Karl, museum program manager at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. “Working with him was a pleasure, he taught us quite a bit.”
A panel discussion, titled Día de los Muertos: Honoring Ancestors in the 21st Century, to compliment the exhibit will take place Saturday, Nov. 21 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Two CSUSM faculty members, Professors Bonnie Bade and Gloria Pindi, will be included in the panel to discuss the contemporary practice and traditional roots of the holiday.
The California Center for the Arts, Escondido is located at 340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido, CA 92025. Tickets are available for purchase online or by calling 800-988-4253. Visitors may also purchase tickets at the museum ticket office. Check the museum website for ticket prices, extended hours, free visitation days and special event information.