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By Tammye McDuff
In the heart of downtown Riverside, Martin Sanchez has built a shrine out of trash. Sanchez takes recycling to great imaginative heights, he has created pyramids, whimsical fountains, and a series of giant wire figures, filled with shells, shoes, toys and other cast offs. These oversized, stylized, mythic, urban creations cover the walls, floors, roofs, and doors. In addition, permanent structures that display his works include a chapel made of bottle caps, all made from the discards, and detritus of modern day Southern California.
The 3rd annual Dia de los Muertos Festival will feature master sculptor Sanchez. Known for his found art, this Southern California artist will be the star attraction this year. Three large pieces will be on display, along with the returning ‘bike’. His newest creation ‘Husband & Wife’ is a 22 foot high skeleton couple, wearing their festival finest. The couples’s fancy hats are made from layered tin can lids. At last year’s Festival, Sanchez’s “Seeing the World” –a 22 foot high skeleton riding a bike quickly became the crowd’s favorite. Sanchez attributes the child-like wonder of his art stems from his desire to bring fun and joy into the world, to explore and to play.
Master demonstrators Chavez and Nieto will help festival goers make their own papel picado to take home. Paper, tools, and patterns are all free. Chavez, who was raised in East LA and now lives in Orange, studied with Olga Furginson, the “grande dame” of L.A.’s papel picado, and frequently gives workshops. Papel Picado is literally translated as cut paper, and is an art form in Mexico. Colorful, fine tissue paper is folded and cut to create patterns and designs that are stung like garlands, frequently seen at Mexican festivals and parties.
Creating and decorating calaveras, the elaborately decorated sugar skulls that represent departed souls and are a popular symbol of the holiday, is also an art form. Master craftswomen Barbara Almaraz of Oak Hills, and Helen Neito of West Covina, each have worked over a decade with the doyenne of Los Angeles sugar skull industry, Angela Villalba. Neito and Almaraz will help festival goers decorate their own sugar skull to take home. Skulls, foils, decorations, icing, are all free.
Downey’s Festival expands into film this year. The iconic ‘Macario’ and ‘History of Mexican Rock n’ Roll’ will be the two full length features, extensive movie memorabilia from the golden age of Mexican cinema will be on display.
“Macario,” a masterpiece of magical realism, tells the story of a peasant who encounters the devil, God, fate, and death. Filmed by Gabriel Figueroa, Mexico’s most celebrated cinematographer; it was nominated in 1960 for an Oscar for “Best Foreign Film”. Prior to the noon showing of “Macario,” Ramon Villalba, film historian and collector, talks about the history and significance of Dia de Los Muertos /Day of the Dead and leads a Q&A in the lobby, after the showing.
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Made in Mexico: From Evolution to Revolution” highlights the rise of Mexico’s rock n’ roll heyday and the subsequent government crackdown which suppressed the music, the musicians, and the fans. Included are in depth interviews with the icons of Mexican early rock, from journalists who covered the events at the time.
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