It’s that spooky time of year and once again the Oakland Museum of California is celebrating Dias de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) with a special exhibition running now through December 8, 2013. Days of the Dead is a Mesoamerican annual tradition of honoring the dead between October 31st and November 2nd with alters and various festivities.
To mark their 19th year celebrating Days of the Dead and the opening of the Gallery of California Natural Sciences, this year’s exhibition title is The Tree of Life and Death. Nine local artists have created altars and installations focussed on the combined themes of remembrance and the interactions between humans and nature. Artist and Guest Curator Eduardo Pineda says: This exhibition uses the powerful symbol of the Tree of Life and Death to represent the indivisibility of life and death. Drawn from the sacred Mesoamerican metaphor of a life-giving tree that unites earth, the heavens, and the underworld of death, the tree also represents the connection with ancestors and humanity.
Housed in the new California Natural Sciences Gallery, the nine pieces explore personal loss, community loss of environment and resources, and the cycle of life. One of my favorites is by artist and poet Nancy Hom. Titled Talk Story Time, her piece is a round table set for a meal with four chairs dressed in clothing including shoes placed underneath the table. The four chairs represent friends and fellow poets whom Ms. Hom had known for years. The table is meticulously set with notebooks and writings by the four authors, and photos of them as well. A tree is painted on the wall in the background and hovering above the table are origami birds which have the poets’ works written on them. It’s a compelling piece – I was drawn in at first by the dressed chairs but the more I looked the more I saw and got to know these unique individuals.
There’s always something to learn, something to be inspired by, something to gain at Dias de los Muertos at the Oakland Museum of California.