At The Bowers: Casa de las Calaveras

Artist George Newnam's mysterious figures are part of the museum's Day of the Dead weekend.

MERRY (AND MARRYING) MUERTOS: While many a Southern California home features beautiful muertos touches year-round, from skull-bedecked aprons to skeleton-laden tiles  to paper flower crowns, we long for more come late October. We want to be immersed in the old traditions, and be told stories, and we want to eat sugar-pretty calacas and gaze upon a profusion of moving muerto-based sights. Enter the annual Day of the Dead festivities at The Kidseum at The Bowers in Santa Ana, and enter artist George Newnam's iconic Casa de las Calaveras experience, an experience much inspired and influenced by his dear abuela, who hailed from Mexico.

THE CELEBRATION... will whimsically fill out the Saturday of Halloween and the next day, too, with plenty of activities and eats. But if colorful art and a tale of two lovebirds ring your particular bell, make time to stroll among the life-sized, beautifully rendered figures, figures that tell the story of some unearthly nuptials and the travels that followed the skeleton-y ceremony.

GLORIA AND JOSÉ... are the bouquet-carrying, tux-sporting couple, and the viewer is able to see them journey around the planet, where they meet a host of happy skeletons from nations hither and yon. The hues are eye-popping and the story is sweet at its heart, like so many muertos yarns are. (Day of the Dead is as heart-filled as it is haunting, and, yes, skeletons can, in myth, fall in love and take a honeymoon.) Mr. Newnam's creations, which began "many years ago as a haunted house," have traveled to several spots around Southern California in recent years, and a visit with the beyond-the-veil couple is now a staple for many local lovers of Halloween and All Souls' Day. Worth noting: Mr. Newnam's Chiapas-born mom painted many of the figures' visages and helped with their sartorial styling. Also worth noting: This is the presentation's tenth year at The Bowers (some have been at the museum, some at the Kidseum.) And the skeletons'll be globetrotting again, gleefully, on the second floor of The Bowers Kidseum, on...

OCT. 31 AND NOV. 1... along with several to-dos, from the painting of faces (hearts and roses are common touches to Dia make-up) to sugar skull snacking. Ballet folklorico, mariachi tunes, classical Latin guitar, and more mood-makers will make both days as Day-of-the-Deadian as possible. And, of course, the figures of Casa de las Calaveras will add to that feeling via their grins and costumes and stories and powerful presence.

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