Mysterious and Beautiful: George Newnam’s Casa de las Calaveras

The skeleton creations are set to show in Anaheim and downtown LA.

David Moore

A SOCAL TRADITION: People often ponder the signs of fall around Los Angeles and Orange County. Leaves don't go red in abundance and locals don't really don heavier jackets come October (especially when those heat-puffy Santa Anas blow into town). But one seasonal sight you can count on is George Newnam's Casa de las Calaveras. The artist created his well-known House of the Skeletons a decade and a half back, and the large-scale artwork is still going strong. So strong that the Casa will, as in years past, go on display in two locations at the close of October and beginning of November. Stop one? Downtown Anaheim on Saturday, Oct. 26. Stop two? The East Los Angeles Library on Saturday, Nov. 2.

ENTER LA CASA: Muertos traditions are strong and beloved in the region, but the skeletons themselves are very often dainty. They're made for shelves or altars, which is certainly lovely, but Mr. Newnam's calacas are something else entirely. His grinning figures are life-sized, so when you see them you have the sense of being among real living characters. Well, perhaps not living, but lively, most definitely.

A JOYFUL JOURNEY: José and Gloria, the two prominent figures in the show, represent the Happy Married Dead Couple. Viewers then join them as "they journey around the world for their honeymoon." The Day of the Dead, in all of its beautiful and complex incarnations, or at least many of them, is visited via the artworks. If you're looking for a good way to introduce your kids to the story of Dia, the Casa is a fine first step, happy and hue-filled and very approachable in spirit.

Both the Anaheim stop and the downtown Los Angeles day are free to see.

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