(Above: Salina Canizales’ photograph, “La Niña Azul,” is part of this year’s Día de Los Muertos/Day of the Dead Exhibit at the Maude Kerns Art Center)

By Randi Bjornstad

What’s synonomous with fall? It’s Día de Los Muertos, of course, that wonderful celebration of honoring the dead and at the same time making light of the inevitable.

And, in the Eugene-Springfield area, it also means another Day of the Dead exhibit at the Maude Kerns Art Center, where this will be year 24 in what has become a much-anticipated annual tradition.

Oregon artist Eileen Finn has four paintings in this year’s Día de Los Muertos exhibit at the Maude Kerns Art Center. This one is “Calacas Playing Poker.” (Note the dog under the table, a staple in Finn’s Día de Los Muertos art, in honor of her own dear departed canine.) And, by the way, calaca refers to a skeleton.

As always, the show opens with an exhibit of artwork that ranges from the silly to the sublime as well as renditions of the traditional altars that honor those gone before.

This year’s opening fiesta features music from ancient Mexico with Samuel Becerra and the South in the North Project, and regional dances from Mexico performed by Ballet Folklórico Alma de México, made up of youth dancers under the direction of Monica Olvera.

The art show is a juried exhibit — this year’s judges are artists Katherine Gorham, Rogene Mañas and Andrea Ross — that features pieces by 32 artists, including photography, painting, mixed-media and sculpture.

As usual, this year’s altars have been created by individuals and community groups, and the art center’s gift imported items, many from Mexico, related to the Day of the Dead season.

Unlike many cultures where death and ghosts are feared, the Day of the Dead celebration is intended not only to celebrate but also invite back to life those who have died.

It’s a combination of the ancient Aztec harvest rituals and the Christian observances of the late fall All Souls and All Saints Days of Nov. 1 and 2. Families tend and decorate the gravesites of their loved ones, put up altars with food and mementos to entice their spirits to return and engage in lively music and dancing to entertain them.

About a third of the artists represented in this year’s Día de Los Muertos exhibit are new to the show, including Salina Canizales, who grew up in Eugene and now lives in California. Five of her vibrantly colored photographs will be on display, showing the high level of sophisticated costuming and devotion of Danza Azteca performances by traditional Aztec dancers.

Another newcomer to the show is Portland artist Eileen Finn, whose bright acrylic paintings blend traditional culture with humor as skeletons dressed in colorful clothing carry on a variety of day-to-day activities of the living.

Coburg artist Analee Fuentes has exhibited many times at Maude Kerns’ Day of the Dead exhibit, and this year she has two oil paintings in the show. One, titled “Mortality/Totality/Schmortality” is a whimsical look at the recent total eclipse, portrayed as a skeleton wearing the obligatory eclipse glasses, and her explanation of the piece encapsulates the spirit of the holiday.

“The celebration and its accompanying artwork helps keep me in the moment and appreciating my time here,” Fuentes said in her artist statement. “It is a reminder that life is a magical wheel, not a finite event and that it is important not to take oneself too seriously.”

Día de Los Muertos/Day of the Dead Exhibit

When: Oct. 13 to Nov. 3; opening reception 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13

Where: Maude Kerns Art Center, 1910 E. 15th Ave., Eugene

Gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 4 p.m. Saturday

Information: 541-345-1571 or mkartcenter.org/

“Mortality/Totality/Schmortality,” an oil painting by Coburg artist Analee Fuentes, humorously conflates the traditional Day of the Dead observance with the total solar eclipse that captivated the nation — including many Oregonians — on Aug. 21, 2017