WPFA’s Dia de Los Muertos

Published 6:25 pm Friday, October 12, 2018

LANETT — The patio of El Rio Grande was packed Thursday night with not only people, but shining decoration, flowing refreshments and locally created art. It was the first ever West Point Fine Arts Dia de Los Muertos art exhibit, which saw a steady stream of people come through from 7-9 p.m. to mingle, observe and purchase pieces.

“It was exactly what I was hoping for,” said WPFA founder Thea McElvy. “We had a nice turnout that kept rotating so that it wasn’t ever too crowded or too busy. A lot of the artists sold pieces and I think it benefitted the restaurant too.”

Matching the theme of the upcoming Mexican holiday, The Day of the Dead in English, the exhibit primarily featured art depicting sugar skulls, the afterlife and the brighter side of death.

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“I just love the Day of the Dead, because it’s really colorful,” said artist Jewellynn Quinton. “It’s a celebration of the dead.”

Quinton’s highly detailed and intricate paintings up for sale at the show fit into that celebration well, mixing macabre skulls with a wide variety of colors not normally associated with the passage of loved ones in America.

Her enthusiasm for the holiday and her ability to celebrate it artistically was shared by nearby exhibitor Victoria Slagle, who said that sugar skulls and the like were her focus early in her art career.

“Bones and skulls are actually really fun to draw and paint,” she said. “The texture of it and everything is really fun.”

Slagle explained that her fascination with the subject came not only out of the aesthetic, but from a very personal place that sparked her artistic career.

“It’s my favorite holiday,” she said. “I lost my biological father to cancer when I was 16, and it took me many, many, many years to develop healthy coping mechanisms for that. Learning about this holiday and the beautiful way that the Mexican culture celebrates death helped me learn how to cope, helped me lighten that load a little bit.”

For personal reasons or just the desire to create and display, the members of West Point Fine Arts spent the evening standing by their pieces, explaining their processes and drumming up sales.

New artist June Bird expressed her excitement with the exhibit and WPFA as a whole.

“Thea has done an absolutely fantastic job,” Bird said. “There’s just something special about this group, and Thea is the pushing force behind it. There are so many great artists here and they all share and teach each other.”

McElvy herself said that she is equally excited about what the exhibit means for the future of WPFA and the Greater Valley Area.

“As long as we keep this interest up, I think this should grow into something really great for the community, and that’s what we are striving for,” she said. “It’s mostly for the community, but I think there are also a lot of artists that we are helping find their voice and their market.”

WPFA will be hosting another exhibit on Nov. 1, the date Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated in the United States. That exhibit will feature ninth through 12-grade students from five different counties showing off their work in downtown West Point.