Day of the Dead artist

Robin Ruybason is a resident artist at Reno Art Works. Her art exhibit, Dia De Los Huesos, presents her personal take on Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a holiday celebrated in Mexico and parts of the United States Nov. 1-2, during which people traditionally celebrate their deceased family members and ancestors with parties, parades, skeleton-themed imagery and ornately decorated skulls made of sugar. The exhibit opens Oct. 15. A reception is scheduled for 5-9 p.m. Oct. 21 at RAW, 1995 Dickerson Road. For information see “Reno Art Works” on Facebook.

What’s the difference between Dia de los Muertos and Dia de los Huesos?

I sort of made up the name Dia de los Huesos, because I just have a fascination with—I like Day of the Dead art. But I started my training by going to the med school and drawing anatomical figures.

Huesos means bones?


Were you a med student or an art student?

Art student. At [the Univesity of Nevada, Reno], they sent us to the med school to draw bones. I love the idea that that’s the basics of it all. It doesn’t have to be a scary thing. I don’t particularly like scary, Halloween-style bones. I think that’s what led to my fascination with Day of the Dead.

What initially drew you to celebrating the holiday?

That [experience at UNR] combined with my heritage. It’s Basque, Spanish, some of my family is Mexican. I really got the idea that we should celebrate our ancestors rather than mourn them. … I’ve drawn Day of the Dead stuff. I’ve made sugar skulls. I lean toward Mexican folk art.

Did you celebrate Day of the Dead as a child?

No, we did not. My family wasn’t really into Day of the Dead. They like it now. I was the first one to make it part of our life.

How do your representations differ form traditional Dia de los Muertos imagery?

I have some traditional drawings of sugar skulls. But I also did some drawings that look like traditional sugar skulls, skeletons, that make them look more decorative, not so anatomical. … There’s a little felted skull that looks like an egg in a nest. That’s in memory of my tree—I had to say goodbye to it. … Fruit trees have a life span. They have about 27 years, then they get too old to make fruit. I think about that tree all the time. I was really sad to say to goodbye to it.

Do your art pieces pay homage to deceased family members also?

In this particular show, they’re general. For the closing reception, I’m going to be making cookies with my grandmother’s recipe. They’re biscochitos.

Anything else people should know about your exhibit?

It’s lighthearted. It’s fun. It’s about celebration. It’s about being happy. It’s not dark. It’s not morose. It’s not sad. And I think I’d like to see more of that when we say goodbye to family members or ancestors or friends. It’s OK to celebrate when saying goodbye to people. … Throughout time, cultures have marked the passage of loved ones in unique and ceremonial ways. I have always been fascinated with the visual record keeping of those traditions and how people choose to honor their ancestors. This show is my celebration of memories, tradition and ceremony.