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Detroit Institute of Arts celebrates Mexican tradition of Ofrenda Altars

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) celebrates the Mexican tradition of ofrenda altars with 10 installations by local artists and community members from Friday, Oct. 25, to Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. The display coincides with the Day of the Dead, an annual celebration originating in Mexico, for families and friends to honor deceased loved ones.

Ofrenda altars are traditionally decorated with ornate sugar skulls, flowers and favorite foods, mementos and pictures of the deceased.  In contemporary iterations, ofrendas have been created as a way to pay homage to not only people but also places, moments in time, ideas and events that people feel are worth commemorating.


Click here for additional images of ofrenda artwork

Themes for the DIA ofrendas range from pet memorials, to remembrances of unidentified migrants, to honoring Mexican-American veterans. The altars will be constructed, for example, from a variety of media, including found objects, silk, ceramics, animal bones, and seeds.

The selected participants have wide-ranging experiences and occupations—seasoned artists, teachers, students, veterans, and entrepreneurs. Many have designed ofrendas in the past for other museums, galleries, and community centers.

Gabrielle and Juan Javier Pescador of Ann Arbor have exhibited their ofrendas at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago and El Pueblo Historical Monument in Los Angeles, among other places.

For the DIA, they will construct an ofrenda dedicated to the late Detroit Tiger third baseman Aurelio Rodríguez and his contributions to Latino communities across North America in the 1970s. Rodríguez was killed in a car accident in Detroit in 2000.

One altar will memorialize Stephen Paul “Pablo” Davis, the last living artist to assist Diego Rivera while the famed muralist was completing Detroit Industry at the DIA. It will feature a shirt and bolo tie that Frida Kahlo gave to Davis. Another ofrenda will exhibit self-portrait sugar skulls created by high school students from LaSalle, Ontario, for a senior project.

Museum visitors will also have the opportunity to honor figures in their community or personal history by writing a note of remembrance to place on an interactive community altar within the display.

Ofrenda artists will be available to discuss their creations with visitors on Nov. 3 at 2 p.m.

For more information about the artists contact Larisa Zade at [email protected].
Credit for attached image: Poster from ofrenda by Gabrielle and Juan Javier Pescador.


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Revised: 10/22/13 20:01:15 -0700.




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