Even the dead need art.
The Dia de los Muertos celebration Nov. 2 at the Center for Visual Arts marked the end of the Return of the Corn Mothers exhibit.
With traditional Aztec dancers outside and an accordion player welcoming patrons through the door, the festivities attracted quite a crowd.
“Last time I checked the counter, we were at 300 people for the evening,” Stefanie Gerber Darr, gallery manager of CVA, said an hour after the show began.
Inside the gallery, visitors found a variety of Latin-inspired art ranging from traditional storytelling to sugar skull paintings, tapestries and weavings.
“When you get into the Latin art, you have a lot of history built into it,” said Violeta Polk, a regular patron of the Santa Fe arts district. “I’m glad to see it’s flourishing and being accepted.”
Jeff Polk, Violeta’s husband, also enjoyed the Latin-influenced art offered at the gallery.
“I love the color, the contrast and then, really, the stories that the pieces tell,” he said.
The exhibit didn’t just feature stories told by the art itself. Each artist with work in the exhibit was photographed and interviewed by Todd Pierson, a Art Institute of Colorado graduate.
Afterward, the photos and stories were all compiled and displayed beside the artist’s work.
Each of the corn mother biographies featured a photo of the artist, their philosophy and a quote that they live by.
“La burla es las careta de la ignorancia,” or “To make fun of someone is the mask of ignorance” was the quote chosen by Rita Flores de Wallace, one of the corn mothers and a weaver of bordado mágico – or magic embroidery.
The plaques were especially important because of what the women stand for. The corn mothers of the Southwest are multigenerational and multicultural. Their influence has created change in their communities through activism and creative endeavors, according to the exhibit.
The gallery wasn’t just host to a bunch of art on walls. There was a candlelight procession with Aztec dancers and drummers, a place for children to paint their own sugar skulls and a Dia de los Muertos face painting station.
With a family-friendly atmosphere, the exhibit got a lot of attention from visitors to the Sante Fe art district and passersby.
“It’s been phenomenal. This show has been packed,” said Dr. Renee Fajardo, coordinator of the Journey Through Our Heritage program — a division of Chicana/o studies —and curator for the Return of the Corn Mothers exhibit.
The department of Chicana/o studies partnered with several other departments on this project, she said.
The department of African and African American studies, the institute for women’s studies and services, the art department, and the school of letters, arts and sciences all contributed the to exhibit.
“Our mission is to bring the culture and knowledge of indigenous people back to students,” Fajardo said.