David Garcia and his wife, Kasi, installing the altar with mementos, photos, flowers, and other offerings

Contribute to the DAM's Day of the Dead Altar

At Untitled Final Friday, October 25, 2019

For the third year in a row, the DAM is commemorating Day of the Dead with an altar created by local artist David Ocelotl Garcia and his family. Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and Latin America that celebrates and commemorates the lives of those we’ve lost.

David will be setting up the altar during Untitled Final Friday on October 25. Visitors will get to create artwork that David will incorporate into the altar. We also will be continuing the tradition of collecting photos of passed loved ones from DAM staff members, which will be incorporated into the altar as well.

The Día de los Muertos tradition dates back several thousand years to the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua peoples who believed it was disrespectful to mourn the dead. Death was considered a natural phase in a longer continuum of life, beginning with birth, then childhood, and growing up into a contributing member of society. On Day of the Dead, the departed could return to Earth and celebrate with their loved ones. Today, Day of the Dead is an infusion of indigenous and Christian beliefs. This year, the celebration in the United States is October 31–November 2.

The Garcia Family and the 2018 DAM Community Day of the Dead altar.
The Garcia Family and the 2018 DAM Community Day of the Dead altar.

Altars, or ofrendas, are the centerpiece of Day of the Dead celebrations. Built in homes and cemeteries, altars provide a vehicle for remembering and celebrating ancestors, family members, and pets who have passed on. They welcome back departed spirits to the realm of the living.

Traditional altars include several tiers and are covered with mementos, flowers, and other offerings. Garcia’s altar will include memorable objects and photos of those who have passed on to the spirit world. He also includes candles, skeletons, skulls, drums, flutes, paper flowers, and flower designs.

The altar will be on display on Level 3 of the Hamilton Building through November 6, 2019. Visit on Saturday, November 2, 2019, and see it free during Free First Saturday.

Lindsey Miller Truswell is the coordinator of adult and access programs in the department of learning and engagement. Lindsey has been at the DAM since 2013, and her favorite exhibition to date was Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land.

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