Day of the Dead Exhibition

September 28, 2019 10:00 AM

A Celebration of Souls: Day of the Dead in Southern Mexico,” is on display through January 5, 2020 at the Dunn Museum, 1899 W. Winchester Road in Libertyville. 

This exhibition, developed by the Field Museum in collaboration with Mars Inc., coincides with the actual multi-day festival celebrated every fall in commemoration of friends and family members who have died. Each November 1 and 2, on the Christian holidays of All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day, families in villages across Mexico gather to welcome home the visiting spirits of departed relatives on the Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). Mexicans often decorate altars in honor of the deceased with skeleton models, elaborate wreaths and crosses, votive lights and fresh seasonal flowers. Traditionally, November 1 is set aside for remembrance of deceased infants and those who have died as adults are honored November 2. 

“The temporary exhibition features 26 framed color photographs taken in and around Oaxaca, Mexico. The photographs examine the complex and rich histories of honoring the dead in ancient Mesoamerica, the labor of love involved in these diverse rituals and the spiritual importance of this holiday in Mexico today,” said Andrew Osborne, superintendent of educational facilities at the Lake County Forest Preserves, which operates the Dunn Museum.

Dunn Museum exhibit designers created an environment rich with cultural symbols from one of the most recognized annual events in Mexico. A strong and recognizable symbol of the Day of the Dead celebration is La Catrina, a tall female skeleton wearing a fancy hat with feathers and bright clothing. 

Life-sized Catrinas are part of the local exhibit. “These cultural symbols, depicting how the Mexican people see death and the afterlife, will nicely accompany the photographs of candlelit alters and rich offerings of food—including a row of solid chocolate skulls,” Osborne said.

Artist and muralist Robert Valadez has been commissioned to paint a custom 15-foot-by-4-foot mural for the entrance to the gallery. The professional artist's work is featured in the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Valadez said the mural for the Dunn Museum, titled
"Muerito Party," is based on the famous artwork of Mexican illustrator José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) known for his whimsical figures of skulls and skeletons that have become closely associated with the Day of the Dead.

Valadez, of Chicago, said his mural depicts notable people with connections to Lake County, both real and fiction, in a fun ballroom scene setting. Marlon Brando, Ray Bradbury, Bess Bower Dunn, Adlai Stevenson and Jack Benny are a few of the characters featured in the artwork. A portion of the exhibit was funded by a grant awarded through the Preservation Foundation, the charitable partner of the Lake County Forest Preserves. 

“A wide variety of programs and events will take place during the three-month exhibit,” said Nan Buckardt, director of education at the Lake County Forest Preserves. “It is really exciting to host an exhibit that has such broad appeal. We have worked closely with community members to add culturally accurate programming and experiences,” she said.