Dia De los Muertos Photo Exhibition Celebrates Historic Characters
By Mario A. Cortez
Studio portraits of pachuco cruisers, Aztec warriors, and other characters originating from Mexico’s rich lore will be on display at one of Barrio Logan’s most intimate art venues starting this weekend.
El Arte de Día de los Muertos by local photographer J.R. Valdez opens this Friday, Oct. 19 with a weekend-long opening celebration which will give viewers a full dive into the stories of some of Mexico’s most famous legends.
“It is important for people to know the colorful history coming from Mexico because it is not just Mexican history anymore, but part of the history of the American Southwest and of the border region,” Valdez said.
The exhibit features a total of 65 of portraits featuring live models in full Dia de los Muertos face and body paint, selected from a body of work over 500 pictures in size executed over the past two years. Without revealing too much, Valdez said that many of the works on display will be a direct reference to an iconic Mexican art staple.
“When you see it you’ll know,” he teased.
Photographed subjects include models as well as many residents of Barrio Logan and friends of the photographer. Paint and makeup for each model were also done by professional artists and other neighborhood acquaintances of Valdez.
The neighborhood connection is important to Valdez, who was born and raised in Barrio Logan. He believes that vestiges of the many epochs of Mexico’s history are still alive in the neighborhood, and connecting past and present to the exhibit celebrates the many cultures which have shaped the lives of folks with Mexican roots.
“Everyone in Barrio Logan represents their bit of the culture that they have inside, you have Aztec dancers at Chicano Park, muralists, day laborers, lowriders and cruisers, and I have been trying to represent all types of people, from modern Mexican-Americans to the pre-hispanic peoples, through the pictures” Valdez explained.
With the show being put on at one of the neighborhood’s cozier venues, Valdez shared that he planned the exhibit space for “sensory overload.”
“It is a blast of color coming from all the images I have produced,” he said. “It is not going to be your typical gallery experience, it’s gonna be a boom!”
El Arte de Día de los Muertos will be on view through Nov. 2 at Barrio Art Gallery (2195 Logan Avenue).