In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an annual holiday, much less solemn than the name would imply.
“It’s a celebration deeply rooted in tradition, from the time of the Olmecs,” says St. Petersburg artist Mark Noll, who is of Mexican descent. “It’s about celebrating the lives of the departed. And it’s a joyous occasion.”
Noll and fellow artist Danyell Bauer have curated a tie-in art show at Atelier de Sosi Gallery, in the Warehouse Arts District. Opening Friday with a gala reception, Dia de los Muertos 2 includes more than 70 works in glass, fiber, metal and wood and paint on canvas, from 28 bay area artists.
(The “2” in the title references Noll’s first such show, which took place in 2018 at the Florida CraftArt Gallery.)
“In Mexico,” Noll says, “they say you die three deaths. The first is when your heart stops beating, when you no longer draw breath. The second is when you’re put into the ground. And the third and final death is when your name is no longer spoken. When you’re forgotten.
“So this is a way to remember, to keep those memories of our loved ones alive.”
Typically, he adds, a Dia de los Muertos celebration would be a private affair including family and friends, “where you remember the dead. You tell stories about them, you eat their favorite foods, you listen to their favorite music. You keep them alive.”
Friday’s opening night party expands the idea. It’s from 6 to 9 p.m., and will include costumed servers delivering an assortment of indigenous Mexican treats, including skull-shaped chocolates and cookies.
Face painting will be free, and there’ll be a costume contest. And after 9, the festivities move over to Bayboro Brewing for a post-reception party.
Saturday, the exhibition will be featured as part of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance’s Second Saturday ArtWalk.
Another Dia de los Muertos tradition carried over is the inclusion of sugar skulls, small replica skulls that have been decorated in a variety of ways by artists – and by students from R’Club, the after school child care organization.
Hundreds of years ago, sugar skulls were literally cast from sugar to create church decorations, which then became personalized decorations for gravesites on the Day of the Dead. This became a traditional part of modern celebrations.
At the St. Pete event, Noll explains, “Some of them are very traditional, some are very personal, some are just fun.”
Dia de los Muertos 2 is, of course, centered around the artists and the colorful work they’ve created in honor of this special holiday.
“The last 18 months or so have been very difficult for artists,” says Noll. “A lot of venues were closed, shows were shut down, and we just wanted to provide an event where they could make some money, and get their work out there.
“The show’s not really about making any money; we’re doing 60 percent commissions to the artists, and our entry fees were very low. We just wanted to make it very accessible – just a way to help out, and give back.”