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Dia de los Muertos at MKAC: “You are the result of the love of thousands”

Day of the Dead painting Anthony Hensley Mending a Broken Heart
Sandy Brown Jensen
Anthony Hensley's "Mending a Broken Heart" is a stellar example of contemporary Dia de los Muertos art at the Maude Kerns Art Center

The days darken down into the celebration of two major autumn festivals: Halloween and The Day of the Dead. Both emerged from ancient traditions that say this is a time of year when the veil between the living and the dead thins, and souls of the dead can draw near to their loved ones in the living world. For a short while, time is a swinging door that goes both ways, and spirits can cross over and back.

MKAC Gift Shop.jpg
Sandy Brown Jensen
The Maude Kerns Gift Store has taken down the Day of the Dead merchandise and is busy replacing it with art of all kinds for holiday shoppers and appreciators.

One very strong Day of the Dead tradition is the creation of elaborate bower-bird type altars to honor a passed loved one, and the best place to see a really colorful collection of these altars is at the Maude Kerns Art Center, celebrating its 28th annual Dia de los Muertos exhibit. This year, they’ve gone all out with eight big community altars and a really big, chock-full gift shop.

Toni Goldenberg Family Altar MKAC.jpg
Sandy Brown Jensen
Toni Goldenberg's "Family Altar"is one of eight major community altars at the current Dia de los Muertos exhibit at Maude Kerns Art Center

Toni Goldenberg created a Family Altar of a table with a couple of shelves on it. Above is an enclosing arch of traditional cut paper prayer flags. On display are at least two dozen vintage family photographs. There's a row of singing Catrina dolls and another row of foods dear to her family including a coffee, oranges, and chocolate. Let me remind you that the food is for the dead, so no snitching chocolates off the altar!

Toni Goldenberg Family Altar Close Up
Sandy Brown Jensen
Close up view of Goldenberg's "Family Altar." Note traditional foods as well as vintage photos and Catrina dolls.

In the upper center is a dollhouse-sized table with skeletons representing Toni’s parents seated at a feast . There are candles, marigolds, and a handmade angel doll spreading her wings of blessing over all. You can feel the vast affection flowing from this family altar.

Toni offers a quote by poet Linda Hogan that is a touchpoint for all these heartfelt and intricately constructed altars:

“Walking, I am listening to a deeper way.

Suddenly, all my ancestors are behind me.

Be still, they say.

Watch and listen.

You are the result of the love of thousands.”

Spirit Horse Khalsa MKAC 2021.jpg
Sandy Brown Jensen
"Spirit Horse for Frida" by GC Khalsa, Wood and granite.

Sandy Brown Jensen has an MFA in Poetry and is a retired writing instructor from Lane Community College. She is an artist and a photographer with a lifetime interest in looking at and talking about art. Sandy hosts KLCC's long-running arts review program Viz City.