Dia De Los Muertos exhibit and CalaGala Celebration

FRESNO, Calif.

Elaborate decorated skulls, marigolds and crosses.

Arte America Executive Director Elva Rodriguez told Action News, "It's festive. That's why the colors are so important because you're celebrating the dead person. The skeletons are usually dancing, riding bikes."

Images incorporated into the artwork on display at Arte Americas in Fresno -- as part of the Dia De Los Muertos or Day of the Dead exhibit. A Mexican holiday celebrating the lives and families of those who've passed.

"The belief is you come into the world and you may have a lot of possessions, but when you go out, you all go out the same," Rodriguez said. "You go out with nothing. Come with nothing, you leave with nothing."

This explains why the symbol of the skeleton is so prevalent in each piece. But there's one alter that stands out from the rest, and it's centered around a black and white photo from the 1800's. That family photo, generations later, helps to tell the tale of a Sanger man. Vietnam Vet Roy Gonzalez, who worked at Sequoia National Park for more than two decades, and devoted his entire life to tracing his family history.

Madlyn Esquer said, "The piece is titled, one man's search of his heritage with answers found in heaven."

Diana Rodriquez added, "So it was decided we'd work with this idea, trying to capture what he must have envisioned as he sat daily after work coming down from Sequoia National Park to sit at a table and laying out his roles of paper and lineage and writing out his notes by hand."

Niece Madlyn and sister Diana, spent three days working on the project. They tell Action News each piece, from the boots below his chair, the scroll sitting on the table, to the photo of each person who has passed, carry's a special meaning. A meaning that takes on a life of its own, as they remember Roy and the other family members who are now gone.

"At that time he only searched them out," Diana Rodriquez said. "Today we would like to think he is there with them, standing alongside these many people that he was so curious about."

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