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We Recommend – Dia de Los Muertos: Hecho en Utah

The Day of the Dead is an indigenous-based celebration to honor ancestors and to center the cycle of life-death in collective memories. In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared El Día De los Muertos as a Cultural Heritage for Humanity. This celebration represents the amalgamation of pre-colonial religious rites and Catholic feasts. It brings together two universes, one marked by indigenous belief systems, the other by worldviews introduced by the Europeans in the sixteenth century.

Through the times, the celebration has experienced multiple metamorphoses: from an “exotic celebration,” to “the most colorful and vibrant manifestation of life and death.” Nowadays, Día de Muertos takes the form of Aztec dances, altars for the dead, food, bread for the dead, flowers, skeletons, skulls, music, face painting, theater, visits to the cemeteries, and religious and spiritual ceremonies.

The photo-documentary exhibit at the Marriott Library, Day of the Dead: Made in Utah, was curated by Dr. Armando Solórzano and portrays the particularities and transculturality of the celebration in the Beehive State. In Utah, the Day of the Dead has created spaces for public discourse on issues of cultural integrity, immigration, community wellness, the death penalty, religion and spirituality, and the holiday’s impact on the economics, culture, and politics of the state.

The ethno-photographic collection is composed of twelve photo frames – including bilingual descriptions, masks, ceremonial hats, rare books on Mexican culture, multimedia, and small altars in memory of ancestors.

In conjunction with this exhibit, an interfaith colloquium will take place during the month of November. Religious leaders representing various traditions will share their understandings of celebrating their ancestors and their approach to the intrinsic connections embedded in the cycle of life and death.

The photographs, interviews, and the multi media components of the exhibits were collected by Dr. Armando Solórzano during the last ten years of the celebration of the Día de Muertos in Utah and abroad. Also included in the exhibition is a unique artists’ book from the rare books collection, DOC/UNDOC.

Guillermo Gomez-Peña
Santa Cruz, CA: Moving Parts Press, 2014
N7433.4 G644 D63 2014

DOC/UNDOC is the outcome of a seven-year collaboration, featuring mixed-media housed in a box containing: a letterpress book illustrated with relief prints by Felicia Rice, performance texts by Guillermo Gomez-Peña, critical commentary by Jennifer Gonzalez, video by Gustavo Vazquez, and sound art by Zachary Watkins – all addressing concepts of identity, context, transition, border, reinvention of self and other.  DOC/UNDOC is also the sequel to Gomez-Peña’s Codex Espangliensis (1998). The artist’s describe the work as:

“A traveling case for apprentice shamans.
A reliquary for imaginary saints. A toolbox for self-transformation containing:
a quiet call to heal yourself with fetishes and antidotes.
A border kit to face the uncertainty of future crossings.”

Images and type were printed from digital polymer plates on a Vandercook 20 proof press. Images include the following printmaking techniques: letterpress stratography, collography, monoprinting, and chine colle. Types are digital Linotype Helvetica Neue, Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk, and Font Bureau Sloop Script; and handset 20th Century Condensed. Papers are handmade American Cave, British Wookie Hole, Japanese Chiri, Indian Reptile Skin. Book cloth is Italian Canapetta. Binding and box by Craig Jensen of BookLab II. Edition of sixty-five copies plus fifteen deluxe copies. University of Utah copy is no. 29 of 65 signed by the author/artist and bookmaker. 

Other artists’ books in the rare books collection that incorporate elements and motifs from El Día De los Muertos include:

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México; Taller Lenateros, 199-?
F1256 J53 1990z

Taller Lenateros was founded in 1775 by Mexican poet, Ambar Past. In 1992, Taller Lenateros began “La jícara” (The Gourd), a literary, artistic and historical journal to preserve and promote Mayan culture. Only historical documents or material created specifically for the journal and never before published would be used. The first trial issue, unnumbered, was produced in an edition of 200 copies. The first official issue was produced in 1994. Issue no. 2, focusing on literature of Chiapas was produced in an edition of 700 copies. Production grew to 1,000 copies in later editions and explored topics such as witchcraft, Chiapas poets, writers and craftspeople and artists, the artists and writers of Oaxaca, and the stories and designs of the Lacandon jungle.

Vinnie-Marie D’Ambrosio
Lincoln, NE: Blue Heron Press, 1993
PS3554 A48 M49 1993

Inspired by the home of painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, this is a tale of a rebirth of life through the grand feast day of death, El Diá de Los Muertos. The book creates life-size calavera for vertical display. Woodcuts by Karen Kunc. Six sheets, printed on one side, joined to form a continuous strip, folded accordion style. First and last sheets are cut-outs. Printed from 10pt. Garamond light types. Multi-color reduction woodcut on Frankfort cream paper. Issued in black paper slipcase. Signed by the author and the artist.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, México, 2007
PM4466 Z95 E5333 2007

Translation from Tzotzil to English by Ambar Past. Text from Conjuros y ebriedades: cantos de mujeres mayas. Three volumes in hut-shaped cardboard carrying case that can be folded out into an altar with two side panels. Includes one pot-shaped clay burner, two animal-figure clay candles and twelve colored candles. Incantations include a Hex to kill the unfaithful man by Tonik Nibak, Mayan love charms by Petra Hernandez and Magic for a long like by Manwela Kokoroch. Volumes 1 and 3 issued in editions of one hundred copies. Volume 3 issued in an edition of one thousand copies.

Peter and Donna Thomas
Santa Cruz: Peter and Donna Thomas, 2018
N7433.4 T52 M46 2018

Text combines Latin phrases exploring a theme first found in Euripides tragedy, Alcestis, “No one can say for certain they will still be living tomorrow.” Woodcut illustrations in the style of Southwest Day of the Dead Milagros, handprinted on handmade paper (ochre with black fiber flecks) using 18 point Anglo and various fonts of wood type printed with split fountain inking. Bound vertically in box: ebony wood supports hold a dowel that the pages are sewn to; full bound in black Moroccan leather with a woodcut on a panel on the front cover. Edition of twenty copies.

El Diá de Los Muertos: Hecho en Utah was made possible with support from our colleagues at the library:
Greg Hatch, Allyson Mower, and Ian Godfrey.

The exhibit is located on level 1 of the Marriott Library. It is free and open to the public through December 15, 2023.


Mary Ann Villareal | VP Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Michelle Camacho | Dean College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Edmund Fong | Chair. Division of Ethnic Studies
Family and Consumer Studies
and the J. Willard Marriott Library


1 Comment
  • Yevgeniy Basin
    Posted at 08:41h, 22 November Reply

    I am very interesting to see the exhibition.

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