(Above: Boogie Nights by Eileen Finn sets the tone for the 2021 Día de los Muertos show at the Maude Kerns Art Center.)

By Randi Bjornstad

Eugene artist Patricia Montoya Donahue, known for her basketry, instead created a series of mosaic tiles — featuring skulls, of course — for this year’s Día de los Muertos show.

If this is October — and it is — then it’s time again to take in the Latin American version of Halloween, Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, at the Maude Kerns Art Center.

This is the 28th time the art center has offered this lively exhibit, and the artwork on display is as colorful and imaginative as ever, starting with Eileen Finn’s portrayal of an entire community getting into the spirit of the season.

And spirit is the right word, as this celebration encourages people to decorate, dress, and cook up a storm in order to offer the ghosts of their dear departed a chance to take part in the festivities being enjoyed by the still living.

It’s an age-old observance that began with ancient Aztec rituals at the completion of the annual harvest, eventually blending after the conquest by the Spanish conquistadors with Roman Catholic rituals on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, observed on Nov. 1 and 2.

Eugene fabric artist Sheryl LeBlanc’s art quilt, called Julian, Messenger of Loving Kindness, offers a flowery view of the annual observance

The show at the Maude Kerns Art Center runs from Oct. 15 through Nov. 5. This year’s exhibit includes work by 18 artists, selected by jurors Jocelyn Moreno, Andrea Ros, and Maria Sollo. The pieces vary widely in style and medium, including paintings in oil, watercolor, and acrylic as well as photography, ceramics, mixed media, textile art, and linocut block prints.

In addition to the artwork, the display includes eight ofrendas, which are altars depicting offerings made to the dead loved ones, usually including food, traditional items, and pictures of family members and friends. Among the altars is one honoring Maude Kerns, the artist for whom the art center is named.

As many things have become in these pandemic times, this year’s Día de los Muertos activities and exhibits will be available both in person and online via the art center’s website, mkartcenter.org. The website also will offer videos about the artwork and the altars, plus a scavenger hunt and other activities related to the show. The artwork that is for sale also can be purchased on the website.

A Day of the Dead Gift Shop, featuring items selected by Suzanne Algara of Buganvilla Imports, offers crafts created by Mexican artists, including elegantly dressed (La Catrina) skeletons, Day of the Dead dog figures, altar-like dioramas called nichos, decorative charms called milagros, and a variety of artistically decorated skulls.

In addition, Eugene artist Mija Matriz will host a Zoom presentation, Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca & Chiapas, from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 21. A Zoom link will be available on the mkartcenter.org website.

Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead Exhibit

When: Oct. 15 through Nov. 5, 2021

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, and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays when exhibits are on display

Special details: Adherence required to state of Oregon and Oregon Health Authority pandemic guidelines

Information: 541-345-1571 or mkartcenter.org

Coburg artist Analee Fuentes created a “Covid Collection” series titled Reinvented Accessories for the Modern Catrina, that includes a purse, high heels, bra, and fascinator (hat) that is part of this year’s Día de los Muertos show at the Maude Kerns Art Center.