A colorful celebration

MARSHALL – A little more than a couple of months ago, Daily Grind owner Roberta Wyatt asked Southwest Minnesota State University studio art student Jesus Rodriguez if he’d do a series of work about Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) for an exhibit.

“It just dawned on me that I don’t know much about it,” Rodriguez said.

So the SMSU senior boned up on the holiday to create a series that is on display through the rest of the month at the Daily Grind.

“I actually did a lot of research when I did this series of paintings,” Rodriguez said. “I found out a lot about how the holiday came about.”

Dia de los Muertos was once a month- long holiday in the Aztec culture. Then the Spaniards came in and saw the celebration as evil and tried to get rid of it, Rodriguez said. But the Spaniards were unsuccessful, and the holiday is now down to two days in the beginning of November.

“It’s a really, really beautiful celebration,” Rodriguez said. There’s so much color and flowers, he said.

The first day of the celebration is to honor children and infants who died, and the second day is for adults. Rodriguez said his grandparents live in Texas, close to the Mexico border, and every year, there’s a big celebration for the Day of the Dead.

“It’s Halloween essentially,” he said.

Rodriguez said he wanted to capture the aspects associated with the Day of the Dead.

“That’s what I wanted to do with the art, it’s so colorful,” he said. “I wanted it to commemorate different things about Hispanic life.” Those things include the myths, the different stories and lore, he said.

For one of the artworks, Rodriguez designed it from a reference to Aztec hieroglyphics. Another work is about the legend “La Llorana” (“The Crying Lady”), where a woman whose husband is unfaithful and she becomes so furious that she drowns her children. When she realizes what she has done, she starts crying and crying and then drowns herself, Rodriguez said.

The skull is a unifying theme throughout, Rodriguez said.

“It’s seen as the symbol of the celebration,” he said.

His emphasis is in painting, but Rodriguez said he did a little experimenting with creating the art, using India ink and pastels. He used chalk pastels in a way that he was using a wet brush to manipulate the chalk.

There are other parts of the holiday depicted in his work, Rodriguez said, such as the party atmosphere, the religious aspects of the Catholic faith, the superstitious side of the holiday and the ancient roots.

“Each one of them comes from a different aspect,” he said.