“Marlon Brando” by Danny Gonzalez
Altar Artist Danny Gonzalez Discusses Cultural Significance Behind His Works
The Artist, His Altar, and the Día de los Muertos Community Day
Thursday, November 3, 2016
For those who are missing out on the concert Saturday but would still love to celebrate Día de los Muertos with the community, head over to the S.B. Bowl on Sunday, November 6, when the venue hosts a free community day from noon-4 p.m. filled with live music and art from more than two dozen artists and community members, put on by the S.B. Bowl Education Outreach.
The event will be the perfect family activity, with performances by Grupo Bella, the all-female mariachi ensemble, and Ballet Folklórico de Los Angeles, the Mexican folk-dance company, plus contributions from the Franklin Community Center and S.B. Arts Alliance, Adelante Charter School, Mariachi Monarcas from the Goleta Valley Community Center, Everybody Dance Now, and the Franklin Elementary Folkloric Group in the form of children’s dances and after-school programs.
On display will be altars from many artists and community organizations. The altar, the spiritual and artistic centerpiece of any room in the days leading up to Día de los Muertos, honors the memories and spirits of departed loved ones. We spoke with one master of muertos imagery, L.A.’s Danny Gonzalez, about the meaning behind his altars.
By Courtesy Photo
“Marlon Brando” in progress
What does Día de los Muertos mean to you personally? Día de [los] Muertos for me is very special. It’s a time to be with family and friends to share the memories and celebrate the lives of people who have passed on. We gather to retell their lives, eat the foods they used to like, and, if we can, be with them at the place where they are buried. It’s important for me to create the time for ceremony and reflection, to really connect with ancestors and reflect on their lives and the meaning they have given mine. Celebrating with community is a part of it, too, but unfortunately some people focus on the revelry and aesthetics and turn an opportunity to have a meaningful experience into a cheap theme party.
Tell me about your altar. Who or what are you honoring? What themes play into the piece? My ofrenda is honoring the memory of the thousands who have disappeared in Mexico, but in particular the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural school who were disappeared on September 26, 2014, in Iguala, Guerrero. These students were studying to be teachers in one of the most impoverished rural areas in Mexico. What is most sad is that their disappearance has been linked to the local and federal government, as well as the military and police, by independent investigators. The administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has done little to find those responsible and bring them to justice. Particular to this ofrenda, people will have the opportunity to take a pencil from it with the name of one of the disappeared students. By keeping their memory alive, we keep them close with us and give their lives meaning.
Self-portrait by Danny Gonzalez