Dia de los Muertos Art Skull Gallery honors the dead


In San Diego, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) a highly celebrated holiday. The lively and colorful event serves to celebrate, honor, and pray over deceased loved ones, including family and friends. The celebration of life may incorporate an altar, or ofrenda, that may contain flowers (often Mexican marigolds), personal items, favorite foods, and clothing of the deceased, which may be taken to the grave as a gift along with other items.

Beginning on Halloween or All Saint’s Eve, the holiday runs through All Saint’s Day on Nov. 1, and concludes on Nov.2, All Soul’s Day. On October 31, children make altars to encourage the spirits of children to visit, while on November 1, adults spirits join in returning. The final day, families and friends gather at the gravesite to build or bring the altar and decorate the resting place of the loved one.

One of the most popular aspects of Dia de los Muertos is undoubtedly the calaveras, or sugar skulls. Dating back to the 1630’s the name refers to either decorative or edible skulls that are made from sugar or clay. Keeping the spirit alive, Barrio Logan’s popular gallery, La Bodega presents their 5th annual Dia de los Muertos Skull Art Show, opening Saturday October 28. PACIFIC caught up with three of the artists featured to find out their inspiration for their skull:

Joe Hernandez

PACIFIC: What was your inspiration for your skull?

JOE HERNANDEZ: Being as the Skull Art Show is my favorite group art show of the year. I mainly focus on the hand-tooled leather work and my old school pinstriping. The add on’s to the cranium are leather pieces. I hand carved each line with a swivel knife and then beveled out all of the textures with my stamping tools and a maul. The pinstripes are done with 1shot paint and painted using old school single stripe lines.

Anyone you are remembering for Dia de los Muertos?

Hernandez: This year I lost the last of my grandparents, who to me where the building blocks, the home, the people I hope to become. They believed in my art, all of them and supported what ever creativity or creations I would start. They too were artists. From architects to seamstress and craftsmen it’s no wonder my mind is always full of ideas and wanting to be skilled at certain crafts. So for Dia De los Muertos I will celebrate them for all they have done for our families, for being the guardian angels of my art journey, and to keep their spirit well alive!

Where can San Diegans see more of your artwork?

Hernandez: On instagram @joe1time and Facebook @joehernandez. I display my work in a lot of shows around Barrio Logan throughout the year. I am also starting to participate with the Chula Vista Art Collective on 3rd. Join my email list by emailing me at

Renee Tay

PACIFIC: What was your inspiration for your skull (& teapot)?
RENEE TAY: I seem to have this odd fascination with turning a variety of objects into teapot sculptures. Skulls, dolls and figurines seem to morph themselves into teapots while in my quirky company.

What inspired you to add the extra skulls?

Tay: It’s part of my artistic OCD in which I must add mass details and objects to my art. Being a Diablo Teapot, as one knows, devils have an entourage of demons. This entourage poisoned the tea.

Your colors are so vibrant and alive! How did you select your palette for this work?

Tay: I always use vibrant and alive colors. Is there another way to paint?!

Where can San Diegans see more of your work?

Tay: I have been the Resident Artist at Fiesta de Reyes in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park since 2009. The whole center is filled with my colorful benches, banners, pottery and Catrina Dolls. My fine art paintings of pointillism, goddesses and fairies can be found at Agora Galleries at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in Downtown San Diego.

I have a working art studio in the Gaslamp Quarter and welcome visitors via appointment.

Patricia Castillo

What was your inspiration for your skull and tree?

PATRICIA CASTILLO: I really wanted something that had a traditional effect and a timeless feel. I’ve always enjoyed mixing nature into my work. The tree really gave the “forever” to the couple inside.

Anyone you are remembering for Dia de los Muertos?

Castillo: My father. He was a 54 yr old retired Corpsman, avid fisherman and all round salty guy. He had been living in a small fishing town called Bahia Asunción in Baja Sur when he passed away instantly from a heart attack. The entire town begged me to keep him there and I did. He is the first American buried there, and the whole town came. My father was also my best friend. It was very moving, and brought me very close to the celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

Where can San Diegans see more of your work?

Castillo: I have a shop on Etsy where I sell my Sugar Skull Dolls, called Muertosdolls and on Instagram @Muertosdolls

Other participating artists include

Abi Leyva
Adan “El Wero” Castaneda
Amber Gomes
Anselmo Garcia
Carlos Mendez
Cayce Hanalei
Cesar Castaneda
Coco Miller
Cristi Hamano
David Gane Feucht
Denisse Wolf
Espana Garcia
Evgeniya Golik
Franky Agostino
German Corrales
Giselle Estolano
Hector Villegas
Jamie Lynn Dougherty
Jennifer Cooksey
Jessica Krantz
Joe Hernandez
Joel Chiquis
Joni Nunez
Jose Lopez
Jourdan Lopez
Lady Savage
Leti Torre
Maira Meza
Melody De Los Cobos
Michelle Romero
NB Toons
Nico Aguilar
Optimus Volts
Patricia Aguayo
Patricia Castillo
Paul Vargas
Pixie Guzman
Renee Tay
Skindiana Bones
Teenah Clemente
Thomas Maher

The exhibition opens with a reception Saturday, Oct.28 from 5-10 p.m. Admission is free and open to all ages.

La Bodega Gallery: 2196 Logan Ave., Barrio Logan, 619.255.7036,