Full of color, creativity and cempasúchil (marigolds), the “Día de Muertos, Living Presence” exhibition at the National Museum of Mexican Art celebrates the connection between life and death.
“Día de Muertos, Living Presence” exhibition marks the 37th annual Day of the Dead at the NMMA, located at 1852 W. 19th St. in Pilsen.
Initially celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2, the NMMA has extended its Day of the Dead exhibit until Dec. 10. Curated by Dolores Mercado and Gustavo Herrera, the exhibit stretches across cultures to acknowledge those who lost their lives due to earthquakes in Turkey and Syria earlier this year. The exhibit is on display in the main gallery space of NMMA and consists of four additional rooms that blend traditional ofrendas (altars) with a range of multimedia pieces made by 18 local artists.
Many of the multimedia pieces, which include photography, oil paintings and ceramics, commemorate women who have been globally silenced and murdered.
“Muro de Flores” (Wall of Flowers) is a collective art piece created by 18 local artists in a tribute to honor these women. Each piece in the 18 flower display utilizes a variety of color and media, each symbolizing traditions of Mesoamerica culture that still are practiced on Day of the Dead. As mentioned in the piece’s description, the four petal flower has been a part of offerings and holds special ritual significance through its beauty.
Each room in the exhibit also displays an ofrenda, some of which commemorate the lives of community artists, such as Guadalupe Jiménez. As her ofrenda states, Jiménez, born and raised in Pilsen, was a prominent Mexican-American female entrepreneur and was also an active figure in the local Chicago Church, charity and political scene.
Vibrant cempasúchil flowers make up the border of Jiménez’s ofrenda, framing the array of personal items that reflect her life. Egg crates, a red grocery basket and a gray cash register pay homage to the two businesses she owned with her husband, Jose Jimenez.
Another ofrenda titled “54,950 Heartbeats,” specifically honors those who lost their lives during the Turkey and Syria earthquakes.
The wall-to-wall ofrenda bursts with traditional Day of the Dead symbols: intricately designed sugar skulls of various sizes positioned next to plates of artificial fruit and candles.
Cempasúchil are woven throughout the ofrenda’s patterned walls. On display near the center of the ofrenda are photographs of various citizens from Turkey and Syria that were impacted by the 2023 earthquakes.
“When looking at these ofrendas, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so passionate yet beautiful at the same time,” said Amy Roman, 20, a member of NMMA’s award winning youth initiative Yollocalli Arts Reach. “Seeing our people come out to support these artists warms my heart.”
“Día de Muertos, Living Presence,” alongside other NMMA exhibits remain free and open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.