Day of the Dead Art

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Day of the Dead Art is the name given to all the folk art figures, handicrafts and souvenirs made for this celebration or as a consequence of it.

Day of the Dead Handicrafts
The Day of the Dead celebrations are in many areas of Mexico the most important of the year.
The celebration turns around the visit of the souls to this world from the world of the dead and its main objective is to make them feel welcomed and cherished.

The Day of the Dead Altars are therefore the most important element in the holiday and many crafts are specially made to decorate it.

Examples of these handicrafts are the skulls and skeletons chiseled paper flags, the clay candleholders and sahumerios (incense burners), cempasuchil paper flowers and the sugar skulls that although they are eatable are nonetheless a work of art.

Day of the Dead Folk Art
The folk art developed as a consequence of Day of the Dead cannot be understood without Jose Guadalupe Posada's legacy.

Posada (1852-1913), was a lithographer and print maker in Mexico's pre-Revolution times.

He is best known for the creation of La Calaca Garbancera, that later became La Catrina, the iconic skeleton lady used during the Day of the Dead celebrations.

He is considered by scholars the father of Mexican modern art and inherited the next generations of artists a new way of expressing the Mexican culture.

Folk artists from around the country have followed Posada steps successfully using his artistic style to portray the Mexicans intimate relationship with death.

Posada's jarabe tapatio

Jarabe Tapatio Dance etching by Jose Guadalupe Posada

Day of the Dead Folk Art Styles
The following are among the most representative and successful styles nowadays:

  • Alambroides
  • Saulo Moreno and Mario Moreno sculpt whimsical calaveritas in the Alambroide technique which consists in wired structured figures covered with papier mache and painted with acrylic colors.

    Tree of Knowledge Skull by Mario Moreno Contreras

  • Linares Family Skeletons
  • Pedro Linares not only created the alebrijes, his great talent as sculptor allowed him to represent Posada's skeletons in papier mache. Miguel and Elsa Linares inherited Pedro's workshop and have continued his labor promoting Posada's work and Mexican culture.
                                Calaca Pedro Linares
    Mariachi by Pedro Linares

  • Jesus Sosa Calvo Day of the Dead Oaxacan Wood Carvings
  • Jesus Sosa Calvo skeletons and skulls are skillfully carved and delicately painted. His masks, skulls, Catrinas and skeleton painters, musicians and puppets are whimsical and severe at the same time.

    Jesus Sosa skull

    Skull wood carving by Jesus Sosa

  • Catrina
  • The Catrina or skeleton lady sculpture was originally depicted on clay in Capula, Michoacan by painter and sculptor Juan Torres in the 1980's. Thanks to the town's millenary pottery tradition soon its crafters followed the sculptor's school and the delicate and detailed clay Catrinas from Capula became world famous. The skeleton lady sculpture is now reproduced on wood, papier mache, paper, plaster and even bread dough all around the country ant it has became an icon in Day of the Dead art.

  • Nicolas de Jesus
  • Nahuatl painter Nicolas de Jesus has portrayed the Day of the Dead celebration in many of his paintings and etchings on Amate paper successfully expressing his people traditions.

    Nicolas de Jesus gusto

    Muertos de Gusto etching by Nicolas de Jesus

  • Izucar de Matamoros Multicolored Day of the Dead Art
  • Izucar is a town with a long tradition making candleholders and trees of life, a few families have developed an intricate and colorful painting style that has become world famous. The Castillo family introduced the Day of the Dead art to this style, first in the sahumerios and later with a whole collection of skeletons and skulls being the best known the skull with butterflies sticking out of it.
    Alfonso Castillo Skull
    Butterflies Skull by Alfonso Castillo
    Image courtesy of Sandia

  • Nichos
  • Based on Day of the Dead altars and retablos, colorful dioramas on tin or wood cages, known as nichos, depict collages with skeletons, skulls, flowers and pictures having become collectables for the Day of the Dead fans around the world.

    Nicho Carlos Fuentes
    Nicho honoring Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes

Day of the Dead Souvenirs
In the last years a craze for "day of the dead stuff" has surfaced among foreigner tourists specially Americans and Canadians. Most of the times these souvenirs have little to do with the traditional handicrafts made for the occasion and are not an artistic manifestation of Mexican culture.

Some are mass produced while others are handmade. A good example of these souvenirs is the Day of the Dead Nativity scenes and Christmas ornaments.

day of the dead christmas ornament

         Glass Christmas ornament

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