Thursday, October 13, 2005

Fairmont State art students will participate in the construction of a Day of the Dead installation in the Brooks Gallery from Oct. 31-Nov. 4. Morgantown artist Penelyn Peterson and John Bernatitus, also from Morgantown, a fashion and doll designer, will collaborate with the students on the exhibition.

Day of the Dead is a chiefly Mexican celebration to honor deceased family members. In each Mexican household, there is a private altar with pictures of the deceased, together with objects which were special to them. The souls of the dead are thus invited to be present with the living, and special foods are also associated with the celebration. In many homes, there is a path of marigold petals leading from the altar to the door, placed there to welcome the souls inside.

Day of the Dead coincides with the religious celebration of All Souls' Day, historically a time of remembrance of those who have died. Students who participate will decorate sugar skulls, a traditional part of the Mexican celebration, make skeletal figures, also a part of the traditional celebration and will work with Peterson to construct an exhibition of original art to commemorate their families.

Peterson incorporates, in many examples of her own art, figures and symbols that are associated with the Day of the Dead, Mayan art and the mythology of other ancient Central American cultures. Her highly original and multi-faceted work combines humor, social commentary and primordial symbolism.

Bernatitus, whose experience ranges across many media, will work with the students to design their figures. His dolls express his multi-cultural interests; each doll is produced with its own personality and place in an international world. Dolls for this artist are individualized examples of found objects, historical fabrics and antique and modern design. These are not playthings, but objects of wonder.

"We had a Day of the Dead exhibition several years ago, and the students really enjoyed it. For the past years, students have asked to have another exhibition. They enjoyed having the opportunity to honor their family members by contributing to the altar installation. I am glad to give them that chance," said Curator Marian J. Hollinger.

The exhibition will be open during the above dates from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Oct. 31-Nov. 4. A reception will take place from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2. For information, call Marian J. Hollinger at (304) 367-4300 or e-mail her at mhollinger@fairmontstate.edu.