Special Dia de Los Muertos Exhibit


"Day of the Dead" Brought to Life in Oldest House

By C. MacDonald

HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA--An incredible exhibit about "The Day of the Dead" brought this city's oldest residence to life last night and you can still see it from 11am to 10pm today and tomorrow (Nov. 1 and 2) at the Newland House, 19820 Beach Blvd., near Adams.

The historic setting is spectacular for Artist George Newnam's creation, which tastefully honors the annual event, celebrated in Mexico and other countries. "Dia de Los Muertos" is a very special time to salute the deceased with private altars and special food. Newnam's creative "CASA DE LAS CALAVERAS" (House of Skulls) display is perfect for its new setting, where it's colorful artwork and multi-cultural music forge an atmosphere you will never forget.

The former Chapman University film student uses his spiritual and artistic expression to illustrate the story of Gloria and Jose, who died before their marriage, then returned as spirits to enjoy the worldly pleasures they missed. Newnam's mother created the exquisite, huge papier-mache figurines, and two other friends painted background artwork in five exhibits surrounded by recycled and redesigned cardboard voting booths. It looks like a Hollywood set--you have to see it to believe it. As you go through the house, you'll see the skeleton couple visit a Fortune Teller, Chinatown, have their Mexican Wedding, go to a Reception and Honeymoon in Japan. You'll hear the appropriate music from Chinese to Mexican to Japanese and more on your journey. Outside, you can even taste delicious foods from vendors.

Newnam, BFA, said his mom gave him clay figurines of a skeleton couple in wedding attire when he was a teen. "I wondered, 'What if this couple could come back to life and do everything they didn't get to do before they died,'" he said. "So, I started creating the fictional journey of Gloria and Jose." My Mexican grandmother gave me an illustrated book on "The Day of the Dead," which really helped me understand the beauty and significance of honoring those who have passed."

In 1989, Newnam created a popular Haunted House in his Fountain Valley garage. Ten years later, after the gifts from his mom and grandmother, he transformed his exhibit to "Day of the Dead." It became so popular it grew out of the garage and has appeared all around Southern California from East Los Angeles Library to La Plaza in LA to San Juan Capistrano Library to a 9-year run at the famous Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.

"We're really proud to bring this acclaimed exhibit here," said Kelly Rivers of the HB Historical Society, which operates the Newland House. "It means a lot to the community."

There were even actors in appropriate "Day of the Dead" outfits. Film Consultant Darrell Rivers and his grandmother, Maureen, were dressed in their own festive spirit.

Really enjoying last night's amazing attraction were HB Mayor Matthew Harper, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw, Councilmember Connie Boardman and many SoCal adults and children. It was the talk of the town. It's not scary but done in good taste, sensational colors and artistic splendor. Bravo to all the artists involved and congratulations to the HBHS for hosting this educational and memorable display.

It would be great to have this as a permanent attraction in the historic Newland House during the annual "Day of the Dead" celebrations. I'm sure once you see it, you will want to return year after year. Remember, you can still see it today and tomorrow (Nov. 1 and 2). The event is free but donations are gladly accepted. There are nominal fees for most food tastings.

Events are not guaranteed. It is your responsibility to confirm before going.

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