Friday, October 30, 2009

Who do you honor on Day of the Dead?

By the time you get to my age, you start losing people in your life that are near and dear to you. It's surreal to think that people you've shared wonderful times with are no longer with you. I don't know if I even comprehend it all or if I just refuse to think of their absence as permanent. Maybe my belief in life after death helps me to remember that I will see them again someday. I expect my older relatives and friends of  the family to pass on without much of a tear drop but when it happens to someone young or under 65 even, it hits hard. You feel  time stop, your skin tingle, and your pulse race when you get the news. I often think about what happens after you die or what will my family do with my body. Will I be buried or burned. Will my daughter carry around my ashes in a locket or will I be put up on a mantle for the cat the tip over. Maybe someone might find my bones 1,000 years from now to study and they'll name me Lucy. Or worse, I'll be flooded out of my casket and put on display in a creepy museum of mummies. But I digress.

Day of the Dead is a joyous celebration of the lives we've lost but will see again. November 2 is the day the dead rise from their graves, ashes, science labs, and museums to re-join their loved ones on earth. Families build altars to their loved ones adorned with flowers, food, drinks, toys, vices, and other favorite items to entice and please the souls. After spending a few hours on earth, the spirits are then scared back to their graves by mask-wearers in a long procession. At least that is how it's done in Mexico. What about you? What traditions or new ways of honoring your dearly departed do you enjoy? Who will you be honoring this year?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day of the Dead at Hollywood Forever Cemetary

Hollywood Forever presents the 10th annual Dia De Los Muertos Celebration
Saturday, October 24th, 2009
 Admission $10.00 - 12 years & under are free.

The celebration features:
*The procession will begin with an Aztec Ritual Blessing and will continue with a traditional “Oaxacan Burial” that represents the suffering of death and it concludes on stage welcoming the spirits to celebrate.
*The community honors their beloved that have passed away by creating altars as offerings throughout the cemetery.
*Art exhibit in the Cathedral Mausoleum featuring work by the Linares Family and many more.
*The world premier of the film “La Fiesta Eterna”, a film about the tradition of Dia De Los Muertos.
*Children’s Area where kids can learn about this ancient celebration though art, including traditional face painting.

Gates open at 4:00 PM
Gates Close at 11:00 PM
Lila Downs at 9:00 PM

The public can call 323.447.0999 for more information.
Location Address:
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dia De Los Muertos is a 3,000 year old Aztec tradition, alternately referred to as “All Souls Day”, where it is believed the spirits of our ancestors and we, the living, can meet face to face for one day a year. For more info on the festival at Hollywood Forever please visit For more historical context visit Lila Downs is a world renowned singer and songwriter and Latin Grammy winner from Oaxaca, Mexico. Hollywood Forever, resting place of Hollywood’s Immortals, has made national headlines with its innovative approach, including digital biographies, summer film series, concert series and more. For more info see

Saturday, October 17, 2009

George Yepes

If there is any artist that I have admired since I moved to LA and discovered the bold and dynamic world of art, it's George Yepes. His works, whether murals or paintings, are larger than life and strikingly beautiful. His visible brush strokes create expressions in pale faces, sadness in glazed over eyes, passion in black and red backgrounds. It is all back up by a long career which began in his youth. One of the youngest of the Chicano muralist movement in LA in the 1970s, he is still a force in the art world today. Read his exhaustive biography on his website: It is well-worth the read with very personal details of his family history.
I had the great pleasure of meeting George for the first time in San Antonio where he has a studio. It was at First Fridays in the Blue Star Gallery space where a couple of his works were on display. My cousin met him that summer and introduced me to him. Little did I know that a few years later I'd be able to work with him at the Autry where three of his works were on display for our Bold Caballeros exhibit. La Adelita, La Pistola y el Corazon, and La Serenata graced our walls and street banners and garnered much media attention. What impressed me most about Yepes, besides his immense talent, is that he is a work-horse. He had three galleries across the US and recently opened one in Las Vegas. Yet anytime that I had a promotional opportunity for him, there he was bright and early (his bedtime) talking to the press and his fans and signing autographs for every last person waiting in line. In addition, he runs an art school to pass along his knowledge to younger generations. Yet, I hear the cricisms about him, not by fans but by other artists. I chalk it up to jealousy. I hate to even say that because it's so cliche, but in Yepes's case, I think it is true. It's nit picking comments that annoy me. I think people are jealous of his drive, determination, and dare, I say it, talent. I once heard that his depiction of a folklorico dancer was innacurate, way off, and completely wrong.
Something about the wrong way the ribbons were on the girls hair, or the skirt wasn't that color blah blah blah, only to discover that Yepes was inspired by an actual picture of a folklorico dancer wearing the same bright, bold colors, and ribbons in her hair. I just laughed inside when I saw the painting and picture. Besides, so what if they were to have been innacurate? It's ART. Art is interpretive, in the eye of the beholder, and my eyes love the passion and deep emotion he brings out especially in his portraits of real women. These are my favorite. Women become angels and demons in his hands. The best part is that his works are within reach. If not the originals, then get the posters, postcards, and candles. You can find them at Chimaya Gallery or on his website He even has some nice holiday gift sets for the art lover on your list. They will thank you!
If you ever run into George on the street or at a gallery, don't be shy. He's incredibly approachable and down-to-earth. He loves to talk about his friendship with film directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Both use his works in their films. You may recognize the "Shotgun Messenger" image above. It was in Once Upon a Time in Mexico and is now owned by Rodriguez. Next time you see their movies, take a look at the background art work. It's probably Yepes. And if you live in LA, you can see Yepes' murals around town like the one at St. Lucy's Church in City Terrace (above), outside White Memorial Hospital on Cesar Chavez, or this one below at the LA County's Child Abuse Center.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Latino International Film Festival

It's been a few years since I've been to a LALIFF event but what I have seen has me wanting to see more. Spend the entire day watching these fascinating films you won't see anywhere else. You'll laugh, you'll cry and all that good stuff. I absolutely love foreign films and the films shown at this festival are some of the best I've ever seen by such talented and resourceful filmmakers. The festival is halfway through its run this week but there is still time to check out a good film. I suggest just showing up and watching whatever is on the bill next. You won't be disappointed
This links to a pdf of the daily schedule:

Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
October 11-16, 2009
Mann Chinese 6 Cinemas
6801 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Emerging and established filmmakers from around the world showcase their features, documentaries and shorts depicting the diversity, creativity, innovation and sometimes, provocative, Latino experience.

The 13th Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) will present the best of Latino filmmaking from October 11-16 at the Mann Chinese 6 Cinemas in Hollywood. Opening with Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces, LALIFF’s cinematic journey will continue with award-winning and sure to please films from emerging and established filmmakers from around the world including Argentina, Bolivia,Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Spain, United States, México, Panamá, Peru,Puerto Rico, Japan and Uruguay.

Depicting the diversity, creativity, innovation and sometimes, provocative, Latino experience, LALIFF’s lineup includes Gigante (Uruguay), winner of the Alfred Bauer and Best Debut Film Awards at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival; Down for Life (USA) named “the biggest surprise” at the recent Toronto International Film Festival; La Nana (Chile) winner of the World Cinema Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Don’t Let Me Drown (USA) and the documentary Sin Mapa (USA).
Established in 1997, LALIFF was co-founded by director, actor and activist Edward James Olmos; producer Marlene Dermer, and film and music producer George Hernández with the mission to support the development and exhibition of diverse visions by Latino filmmakers. Dermer, who also serves as the festival’s director and programmer says, “the Latino artistic spirit seems to remain unscathed, even though we continue to live in uncertain times. This year’s rich and diverse films will undoubtedly demonstrate the splendor of Latino cinema with stories that enable us to come together and embrace one another.