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The Day of the Dead 2013 exhibition at SOMArts Cultural Center offers a visually dense and stimulating environment of elaborate, traditional altars and multi-dimensional art installations. Inspired by current events, cherished relationships, and Day of the Dead celebratory rituals, Bay Area artists utilize multifaceted, contemporary creative practices in ‘Imagining Time, Gathering Memory: Día de los Muertos 2013’.

Visitors are invited to attend the opening reception, Friday, October 11, 6pm to 9pm, $7–10 sliding scale admission, to enjoy music, interactive performance and the unveiling of more than 30 altars and installations. The exhibition is open from Saturday, October 12 through Saturday, November 9 at SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco, free admission during gallery hours Tuesday–Friday, 12–7pm, Saturday 11am–5pm, and Sunday, 11am–3pm.

Each year, more than 80 Bay Area artists from a breadth of cultural backgrounds participate in the Day of the Dead exhibition at SOMArts, examining local and global issues through altars and contemporary art installations that address themes ranging from the deeply personal to the political and emphasize viewer interaction.

This year the exhibit is dedicated to those whose lives have been affected by cancer. In the U.S., cancer remains the second most common cause of death, accounting for one of every four deaths [Cancer Facts & Figures 2013, published by the American Cancer Society (ACS)]. According to ACS, cancer has become the number one cause of death of Latinos, now surpassing heart disease. Chosen by curators René and Rio Yañez, the theme ‘Imagining Time, Gathering Memory: Día de los Muertos 2013’ encourages participating artists to imagine time in relation to life and death, and to utilize memories to create altars to honor the dead and celebrate life.

Also, the curators have asked that artists consider the events of the past year, such as the death of Trayvon Martin, violence in Oakland, and mass evictions in San Francisco, as well as their own personal experiences. Architect Nick Gomez creates the material aesthetic and layout for the installations.

“Because cancer affects 25 percent of people in the United States, sooner or later we are all likely to know someone who has cancer,” says Rene Yañez, ‘Imagining Time, Gathering Memory: Día de los Muertos 2013’ co-curator. “As a special focus and dedication, this year we call upon artists to reflect on how cancer has touched our lives. The exhibition recognizes how time becomes a factor for those who are friends, caretakers, loved ones or those who have cancer themselves, and looks closely at how we celebrate, gather and preserve special memories.”

The Day of the Dead exhibition provides a way for artists and viewers to embrace the beauty of life and to honor the spirits of the dead. ‘Imagining Time, Gathering Memory: Día de los Muertos 2013’ is dedicated to the late Spain Rodriguez, pioneering underground cartoonist, and the late Carlos Villa, renowned artist, educator, and multicultural activist, both of whom died of cancer.

Oakland based artists Howie Katz and Ytaelena Lopez present an interactive, computer driven installation that invites viewers to consider the pervasiveness and randomness with which cancer affects us. As viewers enter the installation, their images are collected and their framed portraits appear as projections on a wall. Special software designed by Katz, programmed to account for current cancer statistics, as well as audience data collected by a Geiger counter within the installation, are used to create the portraits. When cancer symbolically afflicts a participant, the projected image of their face fades slowly as text appears detailing their medical condition, stage and prognosis.

Exhibiting Chicana artist and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) survivor Martha Rodriguez dedicates her installation to her personal journey with cancer with her poem “Remission in the Mission” as the centerpiece. Michael Ross and sculptural furniture artist William Rhodes work collaboratively with youth attending art classes at the Bayview Opera House to build an altar, inspired by home and a sense of place, that represents the memories over time of the larger Bayview community.

Mixed-media artist C.J. Grossman honors teen lives lost to suicide because of bullying. Bolivian artist Javier Rocobado exhibits a series of mixed-media works that honor protesters, activists and those affected by AIDS who used San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza as a site of protest and a grassroots education center in 1985, before people with HIV and AIDS were protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act and prior to the formation of advocacy groups like ACT UP.

In ‘Gathering the Embers: A Dia de los Muertos Tribute Show’, a 3rd annual performance showcase, sisters Natalia and Amanda Vigil gather emerging and established writers, interdisciplinary performing artists, media makers and musicians to pay tribute to love, life, loss and resiliency, Friday, October 25, 7–9:30pm, $8 in advance, $10 at the door.

This year’s Day of the Dead exhibition is supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Community Arts and Education Program with funding from Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, as well as The San Francisco Foundation.


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