La Catrina sculptures by artist Ricardo Soltero. Photo courtesy of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.

A Día de los Muertos Art Installation is coming to the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Pier later this month, and artist Ricardo Soltero is excited to share his larger than life La Catrina sculptures with the community.

The life-sized statues will highlight Día de los Muertos, the traditional Mexican cultural celebration of life and death, when they make their first appearance in Santa Monica beginning on Halloween. The La Catrinas will remain scattered around the pier and local shopping center until Monday, Nov. 2, according to Soltero, who said in an interview Tuesday the figures have become recognizable across the country.

Soltero’s sculptures of La Catrina range up to 14-feet in height and welcome onlookers in brightly colored traditional Mexican attire that’s inspired by Day of the Dead traditions and embroidery. As an immigrant who came to the Los Angeles-area as a teenager, Soltero remembers celebrating the tradition back in Nayarit.

“When I was a kid, my grandma used to make all these pieces for Día de los Muertos back when I was born. And the way we celebrated it back in that time — we didn’t have La Catrinas and all these things that are becoming popular now. It was more like a religious celebration back then, whereas now, it is more spiritual and we all are looking to honor our past loved ones.”

It’s been a few years since Soltero found himself back home to celebrate Día de los Muertos but his La Catrinas have found their way to Denver, Arizona, music videos and even an episode of Hawaii Five-0.

“They’re becoming very popular. Not a lot of people know me but everybody knows the Catrinas,” Soltero said, laughing at the buzz they create in towns they appear.

“It’s a character that was born back in the past century by a Mexican cartoonist. He was mocking Mexican society… but then the Catrina became a popular cartoon,” Soltero said. “And then after the movie Coco, which was a big Disney movie, they’ve really become more popular.”

The artist said his skeletons are popular because they’re giant but friendly. They have warm colors on the gowns and they’re smiling. “They’re welcoming you,” Soltero said, mentioning he will begin piecing the statues together a few days before Halloween.

“Around this time of year, I usually start my days at 3:30 in the morning. When we’re getting closer to the day of, I sleep less but I’m so passionate about making these beautiful creatures that people admire so it’s a labor of love that’s very enjoyable,” Soltero said. “And even though they’re made out of paper mache, I created my very own technique that allows them to be outside in the rain or snow or whatever,” so, no matter the weather, everybody is invited to join in the fun.

For more information on the upcoming installation, residents are encouraged to visit downtownsm.com.

brennon@smdp.com