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Dead Heat

Dead head: Ruth Gonzlez's "The Dead of the Media"

We imagine dead celebrities are granted VIP access to some big postmortem party. In this afterlife Green Room, Julia Child is serving hors d'oeuvres. Richard Avedon is taking candid photographs of Christopher Reeve, Janet Leigh and Rodney Dangerfield. Marlon Brando is hiding out, not wanting to be photographed. In the corner, staunch Republican Johnny Ramone is apologizing to Ronald Reagan for The Ramones' song "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg."

We love Días De Los Muertos, the Mexican Days of the Dead festival, because the dead--everyone, not just celebrities--return home, brought on the wings of migrating monarchs, for a big party with their favorite foods, colorful marigolds, candles, sugar skulls, candy and more. On November 1 and November 2, altars are decorated with photos of the dead and offerings to remind them of their lives, and cemeteries are cleaned and decorated. The dead are happy; the living are happy. It's a cheerful celebration, despite the grinning skulls and gravestone scrubbing.

A local Day of the Dead tradition is the Bath House Cultural Center's annual art exhibit, which includes local, regional and international artists contributing Días De Los Muertos-inspired art. Paintings, photographs, mixed media and sculptures show the themes of the celebration and incorporate the symbols such as butterflies, skeletons, paper flags, skulls and candy. The exhibit takes on special meaning for the center, which will pay tribute to its cat, Nikki, who will have an installation in her honor during the exhibit.


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