Cover artist Joe Lopez, paints mostly about his Mexican American culture and heritage. His Day of the Dead art images are connected to his boyhood and visits with his family to the cemetery on All Saints Day to honor the deceased.
Today, San Antonio artists celebrate the Day of the Dead holiday not only with cemetery visits, but also with altars, paintings, poetry readings, and theatre productions. In 2016, Lopez sent his series of Day of Dead paintings and drawings, made over a lifetime, to the prestigious Smithsonian Archives of American Art in Washington, DC, which is collecting his memorabilia.
Joe Lopez grew up in one of the smallest and most isolated barrios in San Antonio. The neighborhood, “Barrio Escondido” [hidden neighborhood], was located next to the famous neighborhood, “Cementville,” where Mexican workers employed by the giant cement factory and their families lived.
Joe Lopez remembers Barrio Escondido as being all of two blocks. In the 1940s and 1950s when he was growing up there, his community had a rural feel to it. He grew up around small farm animals. Some families in the neighborhood raised chickens and roosters. Lopez was
especially fond of roosters, or Gallos as they are called in Spanish, and the Gallo became one of his signature images as an artist.
Artists and art evolve through time. In the 1950s and 1960s, for example, San Antonians saw few altars in public places during Day of the Dead. Religious altars were created for use in home settings, and to some extent, in Westside cemeteries. During the 1980s, Chicano artists began exhibiting altars in public places, such as restaurants, museums, and art galleries. When Lopez operated Gallista Gallery and art studios in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he included Dia de los Muertos exhibitions, altars, and presentations.
Today Joe Lopez continues to paint, design logos, and sell T-shirts. In 2018, he completed a mural for the San Antonio San Pedro Creek Culture project. As for future plans, Joe Lopez revealed: “It is great to be in the barrio where I grew up, and I’m happy to be painting full time.”
(Photo of Day of Dead in LA is courtesy of Betty Avila of Self-Help Graphics in LA California)