Artscape: Por Vida

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Day of the Dead usually gets lumped in with Halloween festivities at the end of October, but the Latin American holiday isn't supposed to be spooky. It's about commemorating the spirits of the loved and lost by throwing a great party in their honor.

On Saturday, tattoo and visual artist Kat Marie Moya will host Por Vida, her second-annual Day of the Dead celebration, at Junctionview Studios. She's invited 25 artists to create works in the holiday spirit, which will be presented with food, live music from Moon High, vintage soul spins from DJ Captain Lonesome and a portrait studio with photographer Chas Ray Krider.

"I've always been interested in how people deal with death," Moya said, explaining that she frequently visited Green Lawn Cemetery with relatives when she was younger. Later, she started thinking of "interesting ways to show that people aren't forgotten."

The Day of the Dead presented a natural attraction. "I love that it's a celebration to honor these people, not mourning or lamentation," she said. "I want to shine a spotlight on [the holiday] and make it accessible."

Participating artists include Joey Monsoon; Charles Wince; Coreroc; Amy Neiwirth, who'll offer miniature clay versions of the holiday's iconic sugar skulls; and Adam Brouillette, who's creating a multi-layered Viking funeral for his recently departed grandmother.

Here's what three more contributors are bringing to the show.

Sharon Bell

Bell's work is a fine match for Day of the Dead, given its darkly humorous tone. Death is a constant in her art, she explained, because it's a constant in life, just one part of the overall cycle.

"As soon as I saw this show on the calendar, this is the first thing I've wanted to be a part of with my whole heart," she said.

Three pieces each depict an abstracted human form with a death's head attached and angling for control. In one of two drawings, hollowed-out lungs nod to Bell's father, who died of lung cancer. A sculpture, made of painted doll parts, depicts the pain-deformed soul of a suicide.

"It's tentatively titled 'Too Late Too Late,'" Bell explained.

Dustin Rabjohn

"He's tragically modest," Moya said of Rabjohn, a CCAD grad who currently lives in Chicago. "His work wouldn't be seen if someone didn't get it out there."

Once it's out there, however, it leaves an intense impression. For Por Vida he's creating another in a long series of large, technically breathtaking paintings with strong editorial content.

"Dumpster" is basically what the title promises, an overview of the contents of a full trash container, but emerging from the bags and random food containers is a small human hand.

Rabjohn explained that he started the piece about four years ago, but feels it's a perfect fit for Por Vida. He hopes to force a consideration of disposability, of being done with something once it's out of our lives.

As Rabjohn explained, "The hint of the dead figure, and whatever tragedy it represents, is directly related to the consumption identified by the waste itself."

Donny Humes

As a home renovator, Donny Humes' profession puts him in close proximity with a lot of scrapped wood.

"It'd be a sin to take it to a landfill," he recalls thinking at first. "It's an obsession now."

Until it can take its place at Junctionview, Humes' Por Vida contribution resides in his garage, next to a backyard adorned with sculptures and funky windmills made from the materials he's found at work sites and while Dumpster diving.

The piece, "Soul Shack," is an outhouse-sized walk-in shrine, in which the artist encourages those who enter to leave good thoughts and kind words for people they've lost by commemorating his own family members and heroes.

Pictures of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Andy Warhol and Vincent van Gogh surround a roughed-up medicine chest. Inside are symbols of things that can lead you astray ("alcohol, pills, devilish thoughts," Humes explained) and his grandfather's watch, as a reminder that you never know when your time is up.

Por Vida

When: 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31

Where: Junctionview Studios, Grandview