Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday of remembrance, though the notion of remembering those we love isn’t part of just one culture.
That’s part of the theme of a collection of works at Marzen gallery on the Near East Side, which incorporates traditional Day of the Dead themes with “Memoria Viventis (Living Memory)” with Remembrance and Celebration events around the city.
Six regional artists working within the theme or inspired by it have works on display through Nov. 7.
“A lot of these pieces deal with spirituality and the theme of worldwide remembrance of ancestors and it’s different everywhere you go,” said Tazia LeMay, manager of the gallery that opened last fall. “The shrine boxes celebrate the Mexican tradition, but I wanted to pull in other spiritual aspects of cultures to go with them.”
The artists showing in “Memoria Viventis” work in a variety of media. Madisonian Dennis Nechvatal creates larger images made of smaller masks, while his wife, Mary Bero, deals in darker themes such as fear or dreams. Gustavo Fares, a faculty member of the Latin American studies program at Lawrence University and a native of Argentina, provides a work on canvas.
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A series called “Serpent” made by Michael Velliquette, a member of the UW-Madison faculty, is comprised of a collection of small hand-cut paper sculptures. Esther Rice, a Mexican-American artist living in Salem, creates cloth dolls inspired by the Day of the Dead or Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, as well as doing Day of the Dead shrines. Milwaukee’s Rachel Hughes (REHughes Design) creates images inspired by Aztec goddesses.
Also in the gallery will be about 15 remembrance boxes or altars, created by members of the community in partnership with Edgewood College.
It’s not just an exercise for those celebrating a particularly Mexican tradition, LeMay said, and that gives the shrines their power.
“It just resonates so deeply, and that’s something people found as they made these boxes,” LeMay said. “It has that spiritual element to it, and I think it’s beautiful for people to rediscover that and have a chance to share your family’s story.”