Artists have different ways of Honoring the Dead

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Art: Fourth annual Dia de los Muertos exhibit opens with a reception Friday

By Jennifer Garcia

The Dia de los Muertos show at Northern New Mexico College has become an annual tradition.
Now in its fourth year, the show will once again feature 16 artists from Northern New Mexico and beyond, displaying their best interpretations of the Day of the Dead. The man behind the show is Española’s Toby Morfin. For the past few years, Morfin has curated the show, all in an effort to share his — and other artists’ — talent with valley residents and those from surrounding areas. This year, Española artist Cruz Lopez also helped curate the show.
The type of work displayed is as varied as the artists that create it. A good portion of the artists have done the show before, but there are also some new faces this year. Rachel Montoya is one of the newbies. Montoya, a jewelry artist, collaborated with Arturo Montaño for this exhibit. But she’s no stranger to exhibiting her work. In fact, she won first place for jewelry at this year’s Spanish Market.
“It’s nice to add her to the show,” Morfin said. He said the show continues to improve each year and has attracted a big audience.
Just as the art changes each year, so does the poster artist. This year’s artist is Joseph Lopez, whose art may be controversial for some. He chose to depict a saint he saw in various places during a trip to South America.
“I got back in May and did research … (I) studied in Ecuador and the image of San Pedro de Alcantara was in churches out there. His story is very compelling and not very known in New Mexico,” Lopez said.
Based on his research and the fact that the saint’s image was on so many churches and quite a few museums, Lopez said he was inspired by the story and decided to recreate the image, using Northern New Mexico art techniques.
Benjamin Lopez will also bring a bit of variety to the show with his bulto titled, “La Sagrada Familia,” carved from cottonwood. The piece measures 29”x9.”
“I started with San Jose and I thought that it would be nice if he had a compañera, so I saw the Virgin Mary, then I looked behind and saw Jesus,” Lopez said of his vision for the bulto. “I plan to use the piece to make an altar for the dead and living.”
Returning artist Nikki Bustos also has a special treat in store for the show. Each year, she displays different subject matter in the form of black and white photographs. This year, she decided to do two different series: an Old West/Bandita series and an old mobster/gangster series.
“I am really honored to be a part of the Dia de los Muertos Art Show again. It was such a grand time and success last year, that it really fueled me for wanting to do something completely different than I had in the past,” Bustos said.
She said the shoots this year were different from anything she’s ever done.
“It is a totally different style than what people are used to seeing when they go to see my work, but I wanted a challenge.”
She did research over the summer and came up with the ideas, then started planning. She used various businesses around Española for the mobster shoot and traveled to Truchas for the Old West shoot.
“I am happy to be showing with this fine combination of very talented artists and hope the people enjoy the show and everyone’s new work,” Bustos said.
Phoenix artist El Moises (Moises Salcedo) will once again display his paintings and Matt Duran will once again show his furniture creations. Other returning artists include: Patricio Chavez, Matthew Duran, Cruz Lopez, Leroy Lopez, Byron Martinez, Russell Martinez, Toby Morfin, Gene Ortega, Bryan Romero and Gabriel Vigil.
Morfin will also sell show T-shirts, with one of his original images gracing the front of the shirt and Janet Medina Rodriguez will have jewelry for sale.
Morfin said he keeps the show in Española because most of the artists are from there and because he wants to do something positive for the town. As part of that effort, Morfin is starting a scholarship fund at NNMC to benefit a high school student that wants to study art at the college. In an effort to get the scholarship started, he will raffle off a piece of art during the show.
Morfin said it’s not easy keeping the artists together and the set up is a little tricky because getting the pieces to look uniform and nice, is difficult. But he said the greatest reward is seeing all the artwork on display together and gauging everyone’s reactions.
“We all come together in the Valley,” Morfin said. “I’ve never seen a show like it anywhere.”
In addition to the work on display, there will also be entertainment at the show. Andres Valdez and Bobby Chacon will show off their lowriders; Ricardo Anglada will play Flamenco guitar from 6-7 p.m.; Mariachi la Lluvia will play from 7-8 p.m. and George Gonzales will perform from 8-9 p.m. Heather Velasquez and Los Muertos models will make an appearance and Steve’s La Cocina will cater the event.
The opening reception will be from 6-9 p.m. Friday at Northern New Mexico College, 921 Paseo de Oñate, Española. The event is free and open to the public.