Strathmore Visual Arts Presents Día de Muertos: Cultural Perspectives Group Exhibition

By Editorial Team on August 31, 2018

Thu, 06 September 2018 - Sun, 04 November 2018

See You on the Other Side by Katty Huertas. Courtesy of Strathmore Visual Arts.
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 6 at 7pm

In Strathmore’s season-opening visual arts exhibition Día de Muertos: Cultural Perspectives, curated by Mexican American artist Laura Irene, a new generation of Latinx artists explore Day of the Dead through a new context as they discern, contemplate, mourn, and remember in order to process, heal, and express their truth. Día de Muertos is on view from Tuesday, September 4 – Sunday, November 4, 2018 in the Mansion at Strathmore, alongside the concurrent exhibition Passing Through, a solo show in Strathmore’s Invitational Gallery featuring the work of Emily Uchytil. Día de Muertos features more than 30 all new works by artists Ana Armengod, Jessica Aguero, Erick Antonio Benitez (2018 Janet & Walter Sondheim Prize), Cindy Santos Bravo, Ariel Cavalcante Foster, Jonathan Howard, Katty Huertas, curator Laura Irene, Paula Martinez, Veronica Melendez, Nadia Rea Morales, and Edgar Reyes. A free Opening Reception will be held on Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 7 p.m., with an artist panel at 8p.m. For more information, visit

Día de Muertos creates a space for viewers to contemplate and share their relationship with death and dying, taboo in America but freely embraced in Latin American cultures. The exhibition simultaneously provides a platform for 12 artists to engage in their own social anthropology, stripping away the commercialism and appropriation that dilutes the significance of the holiday. Artists bring the traditions of their ancestors into the present, reconciling cultural history with their own generational point of view.

Through their work, these artists share an authentic, and evolving or shifting, representation of Day of the Dead and welcome viewers to think about how death has impacted their own lives.

Ana Armengod will create an experience with drawings on paper and short film. Jessica Aguero’s canopy of deflated Mylar balloons will be suspended from the ceiling; collected through her life, the collapsed balloons simultaneously reference death, withering, and impermanence, while also recognizing the people who gifted them to her, who have now passed. Erick Antonio Benitez and Cindy Santos Bravo take a more minimal approach with their work—Benitez utilizes reflective materials as his surface and Santos Bravo uses the subtle application of chalk.

Jonathan Howard explores his Colombian heritage and the idea of death through his mother. He recorded an interview with her on video, editing himself out of the final film to focus exclusively on her voice and story. Ariel Cavalcante Foster creates prints on paper and fabric, dancing atop patterned blocks to drive the ink into her material—she often employs traditional Latin dance as a part of her process. Painter Katty Huertas takes a more literal approach to Day of the Dead—a skull used as an overlay in a self-portrait and an assortment of flowers (commonly associated with funerary practices) bursting out of a ripped canvas—objects that in this context are easily associated with the holiday, but are otherwise more obscure.

Laura Irene’s installation communicates the toll that grief, loss, and anguish have on the body—specifically, skin. Suspended from the ceiling, three large paper panels are charred, representing wounds—some of which are open, others sewn back together, exposing both the fragility and resiliency of the human shell. The artist invites viewers to step into the panels, surrounding themselves to connect fully with the work.

College senior Paula Martinez explores ideas about the afterlife, heaven, and hell, in a performance piece captured on grainy, low-quality video in which she appears as a devil plunged into water. Pink flowering vines, a container of Nescafé instant coffee, Maseca (cornmeal used to make tortillas and pupusas)—illustrator Veronica Melendez merges her medium with the ethos of Día de Muertos by depicting relatives who have passed on, with some of the basic objects they most treasured. Photographer Nadia Rea Morales takes self-portraits as a way to connect with her ancestors—after altering them with emulsions, she prints her photographs onto lace and cloth, blending old textiles she might have found in her grandmother’s house with new technological processes.

On a trip to Mexico, Edgar Reyes photographed local, indigenous people. Often overlooked and marginalized, Reyes prints his subjects on giant 8″ x 8″ tapestry in brilliant colors using dye-sublimation, so large and vibrant that they cannot continue to be ignored.

In the Invitational Gallery—Passing Through
Throughout history, humans have assigned symbols and mythology to the natural world and its creatures, perhaps to orient ourselves in an ever-changing world. In Passing Through, Emily Uchytil explores this social behavior and natural cycles of change. In her collection of 25 works, insects, birds, and plants are painted in oil upon ornate vintage wallpaper, which Uchytil found in a dusty, abandoned dancehall in West Virginia. The flora and fauna are removed from their native habitats and placed in a human space, some posed and others displayed like biological specimens. Each subject is connected to four categories: birth, metamorphosis/transition, celebration, and death.

Education Programming
Strathmore enhances the visitor experience to Día de Muertos: Cultural Perspectives and Passing Through with public education programs in English and Spanish. On Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 10:15 a.m. young art lovers get behind the brushstrokes during a Recorrido de Arte para Niños en Español (a Children’s Talk & Tour in Spanish), a guided walkthrough of the galleries culminating in a hands-on art activity. That same day, in the Visita del Curador en Español (a Curator’s Tour conducted in Spanish) beginning at 1 p.m., adults will learn about the exhibitions from the curator. Corresponding events in English will be held on Saturday, October 20, 2018 at 10:15 a.m. for children, and on Saturdays, October 20 and 27, 2018 at 1 p.m. for adults, led by Strathmore’s Visual Arts Coordinator Gabrielle Tillenburg or the curator, respectively.

Additional interactive programs to enrich the gallery experience include:
El Altar de Muertos
Thursday – Saturday, November 1 – 3, 2018 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Candlelight Ceremony on Friday, November 2, 2018 at 8 p.m.
Admission FREE

In conjunction with Día de Muertos, an altar will be on display in honor of ancestors that have passed on. The altar will be prepared by the participating artists and curator as a way to collectively dig into their roots and present a space that gives a unique view of death through life.

Visitors are invited to bring photos of loved ones who have passed away on Friday, November 2, 2018 at 8 p.m. for a candlelight ceremony around the altar. All are welcome to join in this communal experience and are encouraged to participate or observe based on their level of comfort.

Mexico Beyond Mariachi
Thursday, November 1, 2018
Tours/performances every half hour at 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m.
Timed tickets $10

Visitors can commemorate Día de Muertos with this unique, immersive experience. After purchasing a timed ticket, guests will follow a musical and visual path through the Día de Muertos exhibition, enjoying performances by Mexico Beyond Mariachi in three different rooms. Afterward, patrons are encouraged to continue their explorations of the galleries at their leisure and take a closer look at the artwork on display.

Mexico Beyond Mariachi was created over 15 years ago to cultivate a deeper understanding of traditional Mexican performance and culture. Based in New York, the group launched its first touring show in 2015.

This event is appropriate for both adults and children (recommended for ages 7 and up)

Fiesta de Cumbia
Friday, November 2, 2018
9 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Tickets $11

In conjunction with Día de Muertos, Strathmore presents a night of cumbia spun by DJ Kristy la rAt, co-founder of the well-known D.C. Latinx party, Maracuyeah. Attendees must be 18 and over with valid photo ID to attend. Drinks will be available for attendees 21 and over.

Strathmore Visual Arts is located at 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD. For more information, visit or call (301) 581-5100.