(Above: Detail from a painting titled La Muerte by Eugene artist Aunia Kahn is part of the 2019 Día de los Muertos exhibit at the Maude Kerns Art Center; Kahn has three pieces in the show.)

By Randi Bjornstad

Jane Conklin’s Her Sugar Skull depicts the elaborate confections that are common to the observance of Día de los Muertos in Mexico

After a quarter-century of observing the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos at the Maude Kerns Art Center definitely has become a tradition in itself. In fact, this year’s exhibit of art celebrating the combination ancient Aztec and Roman Catholic traditions of honoring the dearly departed is the 26th time that the art center has marked the season with an art show.

Historically, Dia de los Muertos draws its traditions from the ancient harvest rituals of the early indigenous people of Mexico, melding them with the later Roman Catholic rituals of All Souls Day and All Saints Day (Nov. 1 and 2) brought to — and imposed upon — the people of Central America by the Spanish Conquistadors.

The celebration includes cooking of favorite foods, creation of altars to honor the dead, and much music, dancing and gaiety, all designed to entice the spirits of no-longer-living relatives to return to rejoin their relatives and enjoy the festivities.

Ezcaramusa by Beaverton artist Jocelyn Moreno shows a female equestrian competing in the traditionally male Mexican rodeo

Creating artwork to commemorate the annual affair has become a central part of the Maude Kerns Art Center’s observance. This year’s juried art show features work by 22 artists, including eight pieces by Mexican photographer Fernando Angel Soto Vidal. Selections for the show were made by Carol Arian, Isabel Dutroncy, and Marina Hajek.

The artwork represents a wide variety of styles and mediums, including all manners of painting as well as drawings, prints, paper mâché, digital art, mixed-media,

photography, and assemblage. It also features seven altars created by various individuals and community groups. Among them are three that honor recently deceased, well-known people of the community, artists Beverly Soasey and Lotte Streisinger and astrologist Johanna Mitchell.

For the duration of the exhibit, the art center’s gift shop will present authentic crafts by Mexican artists curated by Suzanne Algara of Buganvilla Imports, including Catrina figures, Day of the Dead dogs, nichos (decorative religious altars), milagros (charms), an array of skulls, and more.


Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead

When: Through Nov. 2

Where: Maude Kerns Art Center, 1910 E. 15th Ave., Eugene (corner of 15th and Villard streets)

Gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday; tours available in Spanish and English; schedule at 541-345-1571 or email at staff@mkartcenter.org

Special events:

  • Family Fun Day on Saturday, October 26, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 pm, featuring make-and-take crafts, storytelling, dance lessons, musical performances, and other family-friendly activities
  • Artist talk on Thursday, October 31, from noon to 1 p.m. by photographer Fernandlo Angel Soto Vidal, on Day of the Dead: Expressions of Popular Culture in Morelos, Mexico, especially in Coatetelco

Information: 541-345-1571 or mkartcenter.org

Fernando Angel Soto Vidal’s photograph, Cemetery, shows how people in a community in his native Mexico celebrate Día de los Muertos