Oct. 24 2012 02:23 PM

Colorful shrines and really big art at The Roots Factory group show

Cesar Castaneda and his 2,000-pound, tree-trunk sculpture
Photo by Dulce Juarez

The fall installment of Barrio Art Crawl—a self-guided tour through the Barrio Logan Arts District—is all about Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, when Latin American cultures welcome the spirits of deceased family members home for a visit. Starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, visitors can cruise by participating galleries (facebook.com/barrioartcrawl) where community shrines are being erected, says Bob Green, who's heading up the project. Traditionally, family members of the deceased build shrines decorated with art, photos and the favorite foods and drink of loved ones so they can indulge upon their annual return.

"This is our own way of doing it [the holiday]," says Green, co-founder of The Roots Factory. "We're encouraging people to bring pictures of their deceased loved ones, and offerings to put on the community altars."

The Roots Factory (1878 Main St.) will have an opening reception for its Dia de los Muertos show the night of the art crawl; it'll remain on view through Nov. 2. In addition to live music and face painting, the free party will have street art, sculpture and paintings by artists including Chicano Park muralist Mario Torero; a video installation by Armando de la Torre; and a grand centerpiece in the courtyard that Cesar Castaneda carved out of a 2,000-pound tree stump to look like the Mayan deity Quetzalcoatl, who symbolizes birth, death and rebirth, Castaneda says.

"I drive around a lot for work, and for about two years, I kept passing by this huge tree stump on the side of [Highway] 163 in Hillcrest," he says. "Every time I went by, I thought of how I could get it out of there." The self-taught sculptor hired a crane, removed the stump and has been working on it for the past five months with only an ax, a chisel and a hammer.

On a trip to Mexico City in 2004, Castaneda visited the Mayan pyramids and temples where he saw representations of Quetzalcoatl and felt a connection. He practiced on two smaller tree stumps before carving the big one, titled Rize of Quetzalcoatl, which will serve as a shrine at the opening, decorated with flowers and candles, Green says.

"The connection between the legend and the art piece is that the tree was once a living thing, then it died and now it's resurrected as this," Castaneda explains. Castaneda's cousin, a film student, has been documenting the project for the first-ever Barrio Film Festival, which will takes place Nov. 24 and 25.

Amy blogs at saysgranite.com and you can follow her on Twitter @saysgranite.


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