Saddleback College’s Fine Arts Department hosted a Dia de los Muertos event on Wednesday, Nov. 1. This was the first year the department has set up the free event in honor of Day of the Dead. Large scale prints of skeletons, homemade salsa and colorful papel picado banners attracted visitors to the fine arts courtyard and art gallery.
The event included steamroller printmaking, a salsa-making competition, an art sale, an altar, and a food truck. This was a collaboration from many different departments including the art, culinary, ceramics and anthropology.
El Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday, separate from Halloween. People take time to remember their loved ones who have died. Family and friends visit cemeteries and create their own altars at home. They display pictures and traditional foods and cultural items. The holiday runs from Oct. 31-Nov.2.
“I always celebrate Day of the Dead,” Erika Carmona said, mother of two. “I bring my kids so they can see what it is all about.”
Carmona enjoyed seeing her children receive skeleton painted faces at the face painting set-up. Carmona, like many other people who celebrate the holiday, builds an altar at her home in her grandmother’s memory during Dia de los Muertos. She honors her grandmother and remembers her joyful personality and memorable desserts.
About 25 students from the culinary arts department competed for the Best Salsa, but only seven made the cut. Three judges narrowed down the choices, with each competitor sharing their own recipe in a sample lab to determine who would go on and have the opportunity to compete.
“I put my heart into it,” Almendra Lara said, a culinary student and competitor. “We have the traditional roasting.”
Lara said that she comes from the state of Queretaro, Mexico where roasting is a common way of cooking. She is inspired by her brother who also loves to cook. When she participates in the celebration, she feels closer to home. She has fond memories of visiting the temples in Mexico.
“It’s a remembrance even though our relatives pass away, they are still here,” Lara said.
Lara, who is pursuing her nutrition certificate, made the cut, showcasing her own salsa recipe. She celebrates Dia de los Muertos every year. She said usually they go to a big celebration in Las Vegas, but this year she was happy to stay back and be part of the campus Day of the Dead celebrations.
Ceramics art students created bowls and platters of varying designs and colors. The ceramic art sold for $10. People could select any one they wanted and then continue on to the salsa competition. Chips were placed into the platters and sample salsas were handed out. Some salsas were roasted, others included mango or green tomatillos, each had their own distinct flavor and style.
“It was a collaboration with culinary arts,” Bobby Free said, the ceramics department lab tech. “Some of our students made the art.”
A bright orange steamroller stole the show at the El Dia de los Muertos event. Students, faculty and staff used the steamroller to create works of art in the parking lot. The large machinery drove over wooden frames and the item to be printed including t-shirts, fabric bags and large prints.
“Whenever printmakers take printmaking, they always draw skulls, so I’m like let’s just get it out of your system and make it relate to a cultural event,” Erin O’Shay said, co-chair of the art department. “And now you’d never have to carve a skull again.”
Students created intricate pieces of art using paint, ink and chalk at booths set up around the Fine Arts quad while keeping to the Dia de los Muertos theme.
“I’m taking a printmaking class here,” student Faith Feltwalker said. “ It’s actually beginning printmaking and I have no experience with printmaking previous to this class. I actually work digitally mostly so this was a really interesting experience.”
The art major student said she researched Dia de los Muertos art before creating any of her own work as she wanted to be accurate and respectful to people who celebrate the holiday.
“So I painted the entire board black and then I used chalk to draw out the design and then you only carve away what you don’t want the ink to hit,” she added. “So everything that is light is carved away, everything that is dark is the original surface.”
The steamroller prints are on display in Fine Arts Gallery located on campus in Fine Arts building, Room 202 from Nov. 1-22.