Harlingen * - A pale orange skull glares from the gloomy picture, two red beating hearts on either
shoulder, a cow’s skull hovering above him.
A print by Marcela Ramirez titled,
"En la velación" depicts a proud woman with flowered hair, looking sternly at
passersby through penetrating eyes over strong cheek bones and a stiff jawline.
Twenty artists from throughout the world, including Japan, Spain, France and Mexico, will have prints in
one of four categories on display Oct. 29 at Gallery 218, owned by Ben and Anna Varela, and by Bill DeBrooke.
The prints - intaglio, lithograph, relief and screen print - will be displayed as part of the
gallery’s groundbreaking ceremony.
The event, from 7-9 P.M., will also include a reception for the show,
"Dia de los Muertos: A Diverse
Perspective of Life and Death."
"I am so elated because it’s an international show," Anna Varela said.
"We have never had an opening of international artists. And then to have someone trust us,
that is a big thing."
The portfolio was assembled by Rene Hugo Arceo, whom Ben Varela met in Chicago in the early 1990's.
Arceo curates exhibits nationwide and teaches in public schools in the Chicago area.
"He’s the one who organizes these exhibits," he said. "He knows a lot
of printmakers across the country. What he does is he basically purchases the materials, hands the materials
to artists, and they either contribute to the portfolio or they don’t. It’s up to them to
participate," she said.
"This one had a theme," he continued, "a Day of the Dead theme, and
so that’s the tradition I guess he upholds, and celebrates in November or at the end of
Other works show a skeleton trying to kiss a resistant calavera as bony arms and legs flail helplessly.
Reptilian skeletons with gaping mouths make offerings to gods, frolicking skeletons pour bottles of booze
down cavernous throats, a placid face lingers over a cemetery.
Varela said he and Arceo had previously talked about creating an exhibit.
"He was able to get artists to produce prints across the country, and also in France and
Spain and Canada as well as in Mexico," he said. "These prints are on loan to me to display
at the gallery on the 29th. These prints are on loan to be exhibited. They are original."
The prints will be on sale for $125 - $175.
Arceo himself has a print depicting cream-colored lines crawling across a field of burnt umber, forming
an image of a woman’s face with arteries falling away from her. She looks down at a skeleton curled up
in a jar with plants growing out the top.
Arceo said when he asked a group of artist friends if they would be interested in creating prints for
the portfolio, the result was a robust yes. All they wanted to know was the deadline and the parameters, and
they were soon busy at work.
"I wanted to organize an international collaboration on the theme of death for a while,"
Arceo said in an artist statement.
"Since this is such a universal topic, not only would everyone have something to say about it but,
the way in which each artist would tell it, and the meaning and symbols each artist could use would be vastly
different and rich."
The collection, which includes a linocut by a Japanese artist in Toronto, is very powerful because it
draws on a broad range of influences.
"The prints included were done by artists with distinct experiences and cultural traditions,"
Arceo said. "There is great diversity of life experiences and perspectives towards death which are reflected
in this suite of prints. This unique collaboration offers a window of opportunity to look into the diverse
perceptions of death artists bring to this graphic project."
* The Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum is a one of a kind museum in the Rio Grande Valley, TX.