On this day every year, millions of people in Mexico and Central America remember their departed loved ones. This year, the McColl Center in Charlotte will celebrate the Day of the Dead with the help of one of its artists-in-residence.
Juan Fuentes is a printmaker from San Francisco. His works depict scenes from Mexican-American culture drawn in thick black lines, with occasional splashes of bold color. To celebrate Dia de las Muertas, or Day of the Dead, this year, he built an altar at the McColl Center.
"Everybody has their own approach to building altars, and probably in Mexico it’s very different from what my approach is here. Obviously, I’m in a more modern setting, in a studio," Fuentes says.
The altar does include some traditional items...sugar skulls, candles, marigolds, and Catholic icons along with personal items that belonged to dead loved ones. And Fuentes added something to reference the McColl center.
"You know, it was built by brick and rock, and so I took some of the old bricks from the back, from the old building, and I broke them up and laid them out here," Fuentes says.
Fuentes says his art is dedicated to supporting communities of color, social justice, and the struggle for liberation. Included on his altar are the names of several dozen unarmed people of color killed by police since 1999. Among those he honors are Jonathan Ferrell and Eric Garner.
For him, the Day of the Dead is a celebration of life, and a way to deal with the pain of losing loved ones.
"It’s something that everyone is going to experience at some point, and so it’s something that we don’t need to be afraid of, something we kind of need to embrace," Fuentes says.
The McColl Center’s Day of the Dead starts with a procession Monday evening at 7:00.
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