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The year 2012 marks more than 400 years that santos have been made in Santa Fe. The majority of santeros and santeras throughout Northern New Mexico continue to make their retablos and bultos the same way we have for those four centuries: homemade gesso, natural pigments, and pinon sap varnish! The processes are the same and the beauty, obviously, equally so.

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FRANK BRITO, SR.

 

Title: San Ysidro

Frank Brito, Sr., is attributed as the first local Hispano artist to show his work in a Santa Fe gallery. A product of the Depression and World War II generation, Mr. Brito began making bultos in the early years. As a kid he quit school early in order to help his family finances. When he grew older he became a plumber until 1970 when he retired and became a full-time santero.

When he was thirteen, Mr. Brito began carving faces. By the age of twenty he started selling bultos door to door to the faithful for ten or fifteen dollars. It was Lorenzo López, Sr., who taught him to make paint brushes from the eyelashes of pigs and horses. During the early years people purchased his bultos strictly for devotional purposes. The bultos were blessed and taken to the local church's altars or to home altars.

Beginning in the 1980s, Mr. Brito began making folk art animals - burros, roosters, rabbits, etc. - which were highly collected by tourists. Many of Mr. Brito's animals found there way into national folk art exhibitions and museums. They are still today considered highly collectable, including his Noah's Arks, which often contain scores of his folk animals in pairs.

The earliest works were painted with water-based pigments or homemade pigments. However, to make the pieces more stable Mr. Brito later switched to acrylic paints. He was among the first artists to show his work at the Spanish Market where he won numerous ribbons and awards, including the "Master's Award for Lifetime Achievement" in 1996.

Mr. Brito's work may be seen in numerous museums, including the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art, the Museum of American Folk Art, the Museum of International Folk Art, and the Albuquerque Museum. One of his bultos, "San Ysidro", was presented to Pope John Paul II during the Pope's visit to California in 1987. Another bulto was presented to President Bill Clinton.

Sadly, this quiet humble man, passed away in 2004, but not before popularizing bultos and folk art from the second half of the 20th Century to present. A collection of his work may be seen and purchased at Móntez Gallery.

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CHARLIE CARRILLO




Title:
La Sagrada Familia

I picked up the hand-cut board and inhaled deeply. It was the aroma of fresh piñon, one of the most wonderful fragrances in nature, and it was coming from a masterpiece of religious art. If there were a scent and a visual symbol of New Mexico, they could not be more perfectly wedded.

"What did you put on this?" I asked, and the artist proceeded to give me a recipe, a history lesson, and a renewed faith in humanity.

I had studied art as a younger man and had known, with great frustration, the guarded attitude that many artists have with formulas that were secret to them, clandestine recipes which would go to their graves, and why? Isn't art always an individual interpretation, after all? Were not formulas only a means to that end and, truly, something to be shared with fellow creators? And here I was, a complete stranger, and this benevolent and humble artist was sharing all of his knowledge with me!

Some geniuses live their art. It's in their demeanor, their philosophy, how they treat others, what they eat and drink and, as in the case of this artist, how and what they cook - interwoven like the bouquet of piñon and santero art. For those of you fortunate enough to know Charlie, you know what I mean. For those of you fortunate enough to know Charlie, you know what I mean. For those of you who don't, he is more than you can conjure up in your imagination. He is the tender husband and father I pray I will be when I am married and have children; he is the loyal friend I hope I am; he is the unassuming artist, Penitente, and historian I shall be in my dreams; and he is the benevolent teacher that will be remembered long after we have all returned to the clay he paints with - the same clay that feeds the piñon trees of our beloved New Mexico.

No single person has had a greater effect in preserving traditional processes and teaching them than my friend, Charles M. Carillo. Verdaderatmente, es el maestro.

Foreward by Dr. Rey Móntez to Charlie Carrillo: Tradition & Soul/Tracición y Alma, Barbe Awalt & Paul Rhetts (LPD Press 1995).

Dr. Charlie M. Carrillo (b. January 18, 1956 Albuquerque, NM)

His work has been included in countless exhibitions, such as Chispas! Cultural Warriors of New Mexico at The Heard Museum, Cuando Hablan Los Santos: Contemporary Santero Traditions from Northern New Mexico at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, and Our Saints Among Us: 400 years of New Mexican Devotional Art (1997). His work can be found at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts, the Millicent Rogers Museum, the Regis University, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Albuquerque Museum, the Taylor Museum, among many others. His work has been presented to King Juan Carlos of Spain and President Bill Clinton. He has won countless awards including People's Choice Award at Spanish Market (1999), Best of Show at Los Colores Festival (2000), New Directions Award at Spanish Market (2000), New Mexico Arts & Crafts Festival Poster Award (2002), 2006 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, and the 2006 Masters Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Spanish Colonial Arts Society. Carrillo's most recent academic publications include A Tapestry of Kinship, 2005 and Saints of the Pueblos, 2005.

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GRACE MARÍA GARCIA DOBSON

 

Title: N.S. de Guadalupe

Grace was born in Albuquerque and raised in Magdalena, New Mexico, where her family has deep roots. When her grandfather, William R. Dobson, came to New Mexico from Colorado, he married Emilia Garcia, a very talented self-taught painter whose family had been sheep ranchers for several generations. On the Spanish side of her family, she actually has ancestors buried under the mission church of San Miguel in Socorro, New Mexico.

After a pilgrimage to the famous medieval shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain, Grace became very interested in her own Spanish ancestry as well as Spanish art and culture. "When I went to Santiago, I had this profound sense of being connected to a very ancient and beautiful tradition. I wanted to explore that in more depth," she says. So she went on to major in Spanish Literature at New Mexico State University and then graduate work in Art History, focusing on the Spanish Medieval and /Renaissance periods. "During this time, I also became more aware of the continuity between medieval Spanish artistic traditions and the traditional art of Northern New Mexico."

The cultural awakening finally led Grace to become a self-taught santera. She says that her ancestors on both sides have given her a spiritual as well as a cultural legacy which is very rich, indeed. One of her most prized possessions is a bulto of "San Antonio" which was passed down to her from her great-great grandfather, Abran Abeyta, who was the alcalde in Socorro, New Mexico, for many years. She also has a bulto of "El Santo Niño de Atocha" which belonged to her great grandmother, Encarnación Abeyta Garcia. "I want to pass on what I have received," she says.

On her mother's side, Grace is Ukrainian, Polish and Hungarian. Because her maternal grandmother was an Orthodox Christian, icons were also a familiar part of Grace's world growing up. This eastern European ancestry has, in turn, inspired Grace to become a self-taught iconographer as well as a santera. "There are a lot of things in common between icons and retablos," Grace says. In exploring the rich artistic traditions of Eastern and Western Christianity, then, Grace has found a deep sense of cultural identity and spiritual purpose.

Grace's work is found in private collections across the United States and abroad. A major example of her work, "The Christ of Victory", a near life-size icon crucifix, can be seen in St. Albert the Great Newman Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where it is located behind the altar. It was commissioned in 2001 and completed a year later. Also, Móntez Gallery in Santa Fe recently sold her "The Light of the Day Jesus Icon" to the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire and received a letter from the Bishop thanking her for the icon and indicating the important placement of honor in their cathedral.

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GOLDIE GARCIA



Title:
Mi Vida

Goldie Garcia was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her father came from Mexico and her mother's family was the German-Jewish Jake Gold family that settled in Santa Fe. Her Hispanic roots on her father's side go back to the early 1900's whereas her mother's New Mexican Hispanic roots go back to the middle 1800s. Goldie was raised in a family of nine children and she is second to eldest. She notes that her parents were always on hand, but being the eldest girl in the family, she devoted much of her time to taking care of the younger children.

She was brought up in a Hispanic Catholic cultural setting, but one that emphasized the so-called "American Way." After graduation from high school she followed her father's admonition, "You first learn to type, and then you get a steady job!" She did so for a few years working as a secretary for reliable firms, but her superiors all kept telling her that she could go only so far without more education. Responding to this advice, she started taking night classes at TVI when she was twenty-three years old. Later on, she took additional college preparatory courses at the University of New Mexico, then quit her job and went to school full-time.

During this time Goldie began to do standup comedy at some of the local night spots. During her last year at UNM she decided she wanted to broaden her life, moved to Boston, and enrolled in the liberal arts program at Harvard University. She says, "It was a wonderful experience for me to go to such a school and be accepted into this program." She remained in Boston for eight years and notes that the first three years were very difficult for her. Between semesters she would return to New Mexico to reconnect with her roots. While working on her degree she did standup comedy in the Boston area, worked as a hostess at "To Catch a Rising Star," and as a secretary in a real estate firm.

She moved to Los Angeles and worked at a variety of jobs. However, Goldie did not find Los Angeles to her liking and returned to New Mexico in 1991. Returning to Albuquerque with a degree from Harvard University, she found that she still could not get a job contrary to what she had been led to believe about the merits of additional education.

Goldie Garcia describes how she became involved with her unique and funky art form: When I would come back to New Mexico during semester breaks, I would see my sisters struggling to make ends meet, and here I was with my life going so well. Feeling that I should do something to help them, I advised them to become involved doing "Latino Art." I recalled to them that when we were kids growing up on South Broadway, there were altars to the Virgin of Guadalupe every December, and we had processions in the streets with mariachi bands playing the marches. The altars would be wrapped in colored foil along with fresh flowers and blinking Christmas lights and with a lot of colorful glitter on the shrines. This was an expression of my culture that was so prevalent, but my sisters kept saying that we don't have the time. So when I returned to New Mexico for good and found myself hungry, and with job opportunities closed to me, I decided I ought to take some of my own advice."

Dreams play an important part in Goldie's life, and along with dreams and her own intuition she began to develop some thoughts about glitzy, funky art. She started off by placing pictures of saints and little crystals on slabs of metal, and people would actually buy them. Then it dawned on her that maybe there was something in this after all. Goldie doesn't claim to have a business mind, but she believes that necessity seems to help out in developing one. Her bottle cap art came to her one day while out walking and she picked up a Budweiser beer cap. She said, "You know there are millions of discarded bottlecaps all around us." She gathered up a bunch, placed a small image of Our Lady of Guadalupe among them, and put a sprinkle of glitter and plastic over it.

At first she believed they were pretty sacrilegious, but then it seemed that a saint among bottle caps could also be regarded as a personal social commentary. Goldie developed a process and made earrings, pins, and key chains from her bottle caps. Before long the line had taken off. Goldie refers to these as her "Latino Art" and notes that they do have a very contemporary kitsch quality to them. She definitely gets mixed reactions from them with some customers loving them while others think they are the tackiest things they have ever seen. Goldie believes all the beauty in these lies in their overall glitter. To some it represents a return to childhood and simpler times.

For the last few years Goldie Garcia has been creating various types of shrines incorporating both the contemporary and religious aspects of her "Latino Art." The idea of the shrines developed quite suddenly one night. The night she was informed that her father had just been diagnosed with cancer, she said, "That night I made my first shrine; it just came out of the blue. I seem to have creative spurts when I suffer pain: the physical emotion seems to spur the creative urge. The shrines have been some of her best sellers, and they allow Goldie the opportunity to explore different aspects of her funky art. She has done shrines to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Jesus, Princess Diana, Frida Kahlo, and many other contemporary and religious figures.

Of the materials Goldie utilizes in her art, recycled bottle caps are a prime item. These she uses for her earrings, refrigerator magnets, key chains, pins, and other small items. Wholesalers supply the various plastics she uses and the safety equipment used in the process. She has taught herself the special techniques needed to produce her art and has even copyrighted the fifteen-step process it requires.

Another sort of whimsical art that Goldie has developed is her "Car Crosses." These were designed to replace those "hula girls" one sees on car dashboards. The crosses are made of popsicle sticks glued together and wrapped with various colored ribbons, then graced with a bottlecap and sprinkled with liberal quantities of glitter. Attached to each cross is a written label that notes they are a protection from potholes and everyday trash. If it is hung from the rear mirror with the bottle cap facing outward, the driver is assured protection from drunk drivers; alternatively, if the central bottle cap is facing outwards, the driver is protected from bad country western music and backseat drivers.

As to recognition and awards for her art, Goldie noted that her work is part of the current exhibit Recycling that was at the Museum of International Folk Art and has since gone to Tacoma, Washington, and Palm Springs. The art is also in the traveling exhibition. Goldie's unique art can be found at Móntez Gallery in Santa Fe. Her work is also shown in museum gift shops in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and San Diego.

Story by Don Toomey for Tradición Revista

LYDIA GARCIA

 

Title: San Miguel

 

Nestled among the Sangre de Cristo mountain chain is the village of Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, an artists' community since the 1800s. Here art is a way of life. "It's a simple life," admits Lydia, "but it's full of joy and peace. And that's what is real to me."

Lydia Garcia, the eldest of five daughters, is one of the foremost female santeras creating spiritual art today. As a life-long resident of Ranchos de Taos, steeped in the Hispanic traditions of art, culture and religion, her art reflects her cultural heritage in all of its passion and depth.

As a young girl, Lydia worked alongside her father, Elias, while he created santos and wonderful objects in his wood-working shop. Her hunger for art brought her to the studios of two artists, Ward Lockwood and Andrew Dasburg. In their studios, Lydia sat without saying a word so that they would permit her to watch them work. After these sessions she would run home to her mother's kitchen where she would paint the underside of an oil tablecloth, using the precious gifts of old brushes and partially used tubes of paints that her mentors had given her. In this manner, Lydia initiated her own training. She still paints anything she can get her hands on: recycled wood, tin cans, old furniture, and treasures left outside her home by neighbors and friends.

Today Lydia is a full-time santera and continues to paint and sculpt in the same adobe workspace built by her grandfather, Antonio Vigil, where she was born and raised working with her father. Here she integrates contemporary media, such as acrylics and recycled and found materials. Although modern in technique, the core of Lydia's work embodies the traditional faith in God and spirituality in her historic role of santera.

Lydia inspires others with her faith. "Life is a prayer," she says. She gives thanks to God for the many blessings in her life, including five children, ten grand children and two great-grand children. She passes on blessings to her collectors in the form of unique hand-painted prayers found on the back of her work. For others, she teaches workshops, blessing her students through her instruction and guidance. Her passion and faith touch the many folk she encounters through her art, her prayers and teachings.

Lydia's retablos and bultos have been acquired by some of the finest private collections and museums worldwide.

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FATHER JOHN BATTISTA GIULIANI

Title: Guatemalan Madonna

 

Father John Battista Giuliani studied art at Pratt Institute in New York and later was ordained a Catholic priest. He taught Latin, the Humanities, and American Film at the Bridgeport, Connecticut Diocesan Seminary, at Fairfield University, and at Sacred Heart University. He then founded, in 1977, the Benedictine Grange, a small monastic community in West Redding, Connecticut.

In 1990 Fr. Giuliani returned to painting and studied with Russian icon master Vladislav Andreyev. He was inspired by this experience to create iconic depictions of Native American peoples as Christian saints in an effort to honor them and to acknowledge their original spiritual presence in the Americas. Says gallery owner Rey Montez, "These are the most sensitive and masterfully painted-on-linen images we have had in over two decades. The imagery will even soften the most hardened of hearts."

Fr. Giuliani is the 2007 recipient of the Mother Teresa Award for Religious Art. In 2001 he was asked to create the banner for the annual Palio in Siena, Italy. His work has been exhibited at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Marian Institute in Dayton, Ohio, the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York City, the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, and Good Hands Gallery in Santa Fe. Many of his works are in private collections throughout the country.

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LEÓN FERNÁNDEZ HERNÁNDEZ

Title: N. S. de Guadalupe

 

EDUCATION
CEDART- Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Guadalajara, Jal. Mexico 1997
ARTE SOTTO UN TETTO- Art Academy, Florence, Italy 1998
AUDIOVISUAL ARTS CENTER- Guadalajara, Jal. Mexico 2002

EXPERIENCE
1992-2009 Started working at his family foundry in Mexico as a self-taught sculptor. Began designing jewelry and sculpting small commissions. Learned the complete process of casting from beginning a model in clay to pouring, chasing and finishing it in bronze. Made medium-sized sculptures in Florence, Italy. Invited to participate in the "Sculpture In the Park" show 2008 in Loveland, Colorado.

COMMISSIONS
Mexican Seal Eagle ( 2001, 6 feet) Official Building, El Salto, Jalisco, Mexico
Archangel St. Michael ( 2001, 5.5 feet ) Ex-Governor house, Nuevo Leòn, Mexico
Ex-president Vicente Fox house, Guanajuato, Mexico
Vulcan (2002, 6 feet) Universal Foundry facility, Guadalajara, Mexico
Ram ( 2003, natural size) Public square, Ciudad Guzmàn, Mexico
"Greeting muse" (2004, natural size) Customer in Zapopan, Mexico
Megahealth fountain (2004, 7 feet) Megahealth Building, Guadalajara, Mexico
"Woman of Lines" ( 2005, 10 feet) Particular collection, Guadalajara, Mexico
"Gabriel Flores" (2005, 7 feet) Rotonda de los hombres ilustres public square, Guadalajara, Mexico
Sayula's Ghost ( 2005, natural size ) Public square, Sayula, Mexico
St. John Bosco with Children (2006, natural size) Washington State, USA
Deer (2007, 6 feet) Public square, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

AWARDS
1st place award - Expo Joya ´95, sculpture silver contest
Jury selection - Salón de Octubre ´98 sculpture contest
1st place award - Salón de Octubre ´98 sculpture contest scholarship in Florence award
Financial support award for production of short-film with animated sculptures- State Council of Art and Culture 2005 contest


GALLERIES
Móntez Gallery - Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
La Stanza -- Florence, Italy
Ex-convento del Carmen -- Guadalajara, Mexico
Galería de Arte Moderno --Guadalajara, Mexico
Expo Arte -- Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
El Refugio -- Tlaquepaque, Mexico
Casa Vallarta -- Guadalajara, Mexico

 

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GEORGE LÓPEZ



Title: Tree of Life

 

George López (1900 - 1993) is a renowned santero or saint-maker awarded, among many others, the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1982. He was born in the village of Córdova, New Mexico, which is situated in a valley of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains forty-five (45) minutes north of Santa Fe. The village was founded in the sixteenth century by the Spanish settlers to the region, and the village is widely known throughout the United States and Europe for its continuing tradition of religious wood carving. López's family is an important part of that tradition with George the sixth-generation santero of the family (the very famous José Rafael Aragón was the first generation). George's father, José Dolores López, is considered by many authorities to be one of the most important santeros of the first half of the 20th Century (Don Celso Gallegos of Santa Fe/Agua Fria and Partocino Barela of Taos would be considered of equal reputation). Dr. Charles L Briggs, a Harvard professor, dedicated his concentration of this family in his seminole book, The Wood Carvers of Córdova, New Mexico.

López grew up in the Catholicism of the region, and as a boy he watched his father, José Dolores, carving santos in the manner he had learned from earlier generations of the López family. Santos, literally "saints" in Spanish, include not only images of saints, but apparitions of the Virgin Mary, depictions of the life of Christ and other religious scenes and Bible stories, both Old and New Testament. The "Tree of Life" is an image that the López family may be best known for making.

Although the artist enjoyed whittling as a young man, he did not pursue a career as a santero until later in life. He left Córdova at the age of 19 and worked with the Denver and Rio Grande Western's narrow-gauge lines in New Mexico and Colorado, and later with the Union Pacific Railroad in Rawlins, Wyoming. During lonely nights in railroad camps between jobs, George began making small figurines similar to the ones he had seen his father make. His first significant piece, he recalled, was the "Tree of Life," which he claims he originated as a kind of Adam and Eve creation story "without the snake." He got the idea from the Garden of Eden carving his father once did.

López later worked in Los Alamos, New Mexico, through World War II. In 1952, however, he decided to devote himself full-time to woodcarving. Working mostly with a penknife, a handsaw, and sandpaper, he was able to produce a simple figure in about an hour. Other figures took several weeks or months to finish. The Wood Carvers of Córdova, New Mexico devotes much of its text to George and his ability to follow in "his father's entrepreneurial proclivities . . . . Not surprisingly," writes Briggs, "George's new orientation to carving produced divers repercussions within the industry." [p.97]

"It's part of my life, and part of my name ... I'm a sixth-generation santero," López was quoted as saying, "but I guess I'm the last because I've got no kids of my own." However, to perpetuate this venerable tradition, López passed on his skills to his nieces and nephews, particularly his niece Sabinita who went to live with George and his wife. As with his forebears, López did other woodwork in addition to his religious subjects, and carved animals, such as burros, sheep, and goats, but he always preferred the traditional santos. The influence of the Penitentes was perhaps the most pronounced.

The Penitentes (penitent brothers) are an offshoot of the Third Order of Saint Francis, a Catholic lay body known for benevolent acts. Members attend the sick, bury the dead, and hold devotional services where there are no resident priests. "All my life," López said, "I've seen Penitente processions pass my house. In the old days, they'd have a procession when somebody died or even to say prayers at a sick person's home."

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RICARDO LÓPEZ

 

Title: Tree of Life

 

Born in 1902 to José Dolores López and María Candelaria Trujillo in Córdova, New Mexico, Ricardo was married to Benita Reino and was the younger brother of George (see George López biography). Although his work was earlier known under the name of his wife (most of the wives of the Córdova male artists do the detail "chip" carving), in 1927 Ricardo started signing his larger pieces.

After World War II, Ricardo quit carving human forms for two reasons: he believed they may be interpreted as "graven images" that might be idolized, contrary to the Commandments, and "because it is wrong to sell the saints to the tourists." He later became known for his "Trees of Life", birds, and other animals. Speaking of Ricardo and Benita, Charles L. Briggs, in The Wood Carvers of Córdova, New Mexico (The University of Tennessee Press, 1978), writes: "They are quite imaginative and have innovated a number of features in carvings of this genre. Curved branches often grace trees, and piglets nurse from the sow in neat rows . . . Benita and Ricardo have mastered the art of carving these intricate figures, and their repertoire of such pieces is possibly the largest."

In June 1977 Benita died and Nora Cerrano, their daughter, began carving with Ricardo. The two worked together until Ricardo's death in 199_. Although his father, José Dolores, is the most important santero of the first half of the twentieth century, with work in every major folk art museums including the Smithsonian, Ricardo claimed that he taught his father to carve. As stated by Dr. Briggs in The Wood Carvers of Córdova, "He [Ricardo] states that he innovated the carving of monotone images, that he produced the first examples, and that his father and brothers learned from him. After carving this first group of images, however, Ricardo decided that such work was sacrilegious; he never carved images again."

Whether he was the innovator or not, if Ricardo had continued to carve human forms, his work would be extremely important today. However, his carvings continue to be very important historically. A collection of Córdova collections is not complete without work by Ricardo.

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THE MADRID FAMILY

 

Title: San Pasqual

Jimmy Madrid was born in Deming, New Mexico, and raised in Las Cruces. Self-taught artist, performed restoration for Lane Coulter, co-author of New Mexican Tinwork: 1840-1940. Jimmy began showing his work for the first time with wife Mary Jo and son Nicolás at Móntez Gallery in 1989.

Mary Jo Madrid was born in Yonkers, NY, to an Irish father and Italian mother. She attended Catholic schools from primary grades through high school and later attended Dunbarton College of the Holy Cross. Mary Jo studied painting with Jackie Nelson in the "Blessed Mother" course and icon painting with Vladisilav Andrejev.

Nicolás Madrid was born in 1982 in La Madera, New Mexico. He learned tinwork from his father. He is also a student of flamenco guitar at Northern New Mexico Community College.

"Epiphany": "Affordability. We've always earned our living from working with our hands. It is the ultimate spiritual test. Making art must be combined with spirituality. When we're not making art we're raising pigeons and chickens."

AWARDS

Jimmy Madrid was accepted to the Spanish Colonial Arts Society's Spanish Market in 1995 where he won the "Bienvenidos Award." In 1997 he won the "First Prize Spanish Market Rancho de las Golondrinas Award." In 1998 he won the "Spanish Market Purchase Award."

Mary Jo won the "Second Prize Saint Bernard Institute of Sacred Art Award" in 1997 at the Viva Guadalupe Show at the Santuario de Guadalupe. In 199 she won "Honorable Mention" at The Period Gallery Spiritual Art Show and "Special Recognition" in 1998.

Nicolás won the "Spanish Market First Prize in 1998. In 1999 he won the "Spanish Market Purchase Award." In 1998 he won "First" and "Second Place" at the Espanola Valley Student Show for "Traditional Art" and "Craftsmanship Award."

COLLECTIONS

Gene Autry Museum, Los Angeles Iglesia de Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz
The Regis University Collection, Denver Faith Center, Espanola
Rancho de las Golondrinas, La Cienega

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ANTONIO R. MARTINEZ

Antonio was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, but raised in Taos as a young boy. His parents are the late P.I. (Prudencio Isaac) Martinez and Anna (Anamelia) Sánchez Martinez, who still lives in Taos; he is the second sibling of three (two sisters). Antonio's family has been noted and recorded through his mother's side of the family to New Mexico's first governor, Don Juan de Oñate, as well as the notorious "Billy the Kid".

Antonio's first experience with carving was at the age of thirteen. He is self-taught and began carving in stone mainly as a hobby until about fifteen years ago. He started carving in cedar, a wood readily available in Taos, when stone was not available. Mr. Martinez now carves Southwestern art themes in both stone and wood. He began selling his art in many well known galleries in Taos, including the Millicent Rogers Museum and the St. Francis de Assisi Gift Shop in Ranchos de Taos. He is known to have carvings in twenty-eight states, Canada and Germany. His carvings consist of bultos in wood (three-dimensional images of saints), and carvings of eagles, bears, American Indians, cowboys, horses, etc. He has done figurative work as well.

Antonio has always been intrigued by art, painting, sculpture and carving. However, his passion has always been carving. Currently, he has focused more on carving due to a debilitating back injury at work, which in turn has changed his life and moved him in a spiritual direction. He is currently carving santos, with his favorite saint being St. Jude, the saint of impossible causes and lost souls. He plans to be carving saints in stone soon.

Antonio has a great love for life and loves living it! "Lets go fishing!", is his motto.

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CHRIS MAYA

 

Title: N.S. de Guadalupe

I have always had an inner desire to create from the time I was a child scratching out little drawings. As for creating santos, that came much later as I was always a "trouble maker" in catechism and in church. In some ways I guess I still am because I always questioned the church and still do. In many ways, I believe this makes my faith even stronger.

I almost always carve at the kitchen table or outside in the shade. The kitchen is my favorite place because it is the center of a lot of action and a real place of creative energy. When I carve a santo, I don't think it is museum bound. Instead, I prefer to think of it as altar bound.

My artwork is of the people, created by and for the people, not museums or universities. It is an artwork of the heart and not of the mind. I believe the message of the santos can only be conveyed by the heart and soul and not some textbook. I am artistically influenced by the early New Mexican santeros because I find that their pure and simple style is powerful even today.

When I carve I am inspired by, and connected to, the events of the world, both good and bad, much like the santeros of the past who were connected to their small and remote world. It is this inspiration that drives me to create santos in hopes that their message of love, salvation and hope are communicated.

Whenever I am asked why I make santos, I just say, "Look at the world around you. Don't you think we need them?"

Gallery Note: Chris has been our number one selling "bulto" artist since we began representing him four years ago.

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REY MÓNTEZ

 

Title: N. S. de Guadalupe

 

I was a very lucky boy to be baptized and to make my first communion in the Santuario de Guadalupe. And I was a lucky boy to be born in Northern New Mexico to a family that settled here in 1607. I was raised in the Guadalupe Neighborhood on a street named Móntez, after my great-grandfather, Alejandro Móntez. Like his son and later my father, Don Alejandro appreciated things that were beautiful. My father's mother, Aurelia Cabeza de Vaca, was the same. My father grew up in Santa Fe encouraged to make his wood carvings at a very early age. His carvings of animals and children were placed in a downtown Santa Fe gallery when he was twelve, which was 1931.

I was also blessed to have my mother's parents from Chimayó. Don Hemerejildo (named for the first German Catholic king who was sainted) and his wife, Trinidad ("The Trinity") Jaramillo, built the home that is now the Rancho de Chimayó Restaurant. Although I never knew this beautiful grandmother, she was part of a wonderful weaving tradition with her husband. As a child I would frequently visit Chimayó, which always included going to the Santuario. Can you imagine being raised in Northern New Mexico and attending mass at the Santuario de Guadalupe and the Santuario in Chimayó? Could I not have been steeped in a tradition older than the buildings themselves?

I have always loved to draw. My best friend and I would spend hours in his basement drawing horses and making our own comic books. When I was nine I painted my first watercolor of "Cristo Crucificado" which hangs over the altar at the Santuario de Chimayó. That same year my uncle sent my father some Japanese paintings he had collected during the Korean war. I remember how much they influenced my thinking about how watercolors could be a simple brushstroke. When I began junior high, I was lucky to have a teacher from Santo Domingo Pueblo who was a master at making art. He showed me more about the use of watercolors. The day he took me and a few other students to the State Fair in Albuquerque, I didn't know he had submitted one of my paintings and, there it was, with a big blue ribbon. The time before that I had this same feeling was when I was even younger and the grade school I attended took us to the Fine Arts Museum. I will never forget walking upstairs and seeing a huge and wild sunflower grow as I moved my little feet up the stairs. The now deceased painter, Tommy Macaione, blew me away that day. I drew a horse that year that won my family tickets to the Santa Fe Rodeo. For me, making art is saying an everlasting prayer.

NOTE: Articles about Rey Móntez have been published in the National Geographic Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Luxury Living, The Spanish Market Magazine, El Nuevo Mexicano, Pasatiempo, The Santa Fe Reporter, The New Mexican, Sandoval Arts, and Southwest Art. His writings on santos appear in Spanish New Mexico: The Collection of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, Charlie Carrillo: Tradition & Soul, The Spanish Market Magazine, Traditions, and El Nuevo Mexicano. Rey has won numerous awards for his paintings.

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MARILYN AND JOHN MOYES

 

Title: N. S. de Guadalupe

 

Marilyn and John Moyes live in the art community of Kayenta in southern Utah. Marilyn started making “functional art” cabinets with John as a hobby. The cabinets became popular with neighbors and eventually they entered them in the Kayenta Art Festival and local Saint George galleries.

After retiring from nursing, Marilyn had time to explore painting on wood by herself. Her paintings of American Indians and landscapes were shown in the local galleries in Kayenta. It was after they had requests for Frida Kahlo and the Virgin of Guadalupe icons to be placed on John’s cabinets that Marilyn got the inspiration to make retablos. They had been collecting religious folk art from Mexico and Central and South America for a long time, so religious art was familiar and a love of theirs. The addition of milagros (miracles) to the garments of her patron saints not only add texture to the saint’s picture, but repeat their traditional use.

In Mexico, a person may pin a milagro onto the garment of a patron saint’s statue to remind the saint of the suppllicant’s special favor. Churches in Mexico have wood pillars for people to nail their milagros onto, or baskets where milagros can be placed. It is rumored that the saints are jealous of each other’s milagros and like to “out do” each other. Marilyn tries to put milagros on her paintings that are indicative of what that patron saint might be invoked for, and takes her images of the saints from Catholic holy cards.


Marilyn has been represented in galleries in Utah for several years. Her retablos have also been in the Desert Bloom Festival in Kayenta/Ivins, Utah. John is a master carpenter, grandson of David Huges, the famous wood carver from England. He is responsible for the wood, furniture and carvings that Marilyn paints on.

The Moyes are honored to show their work at the Montez Gallery in Santa Fe, where they know their work will be understood and appreciated.

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BEN ORTEGA

 

Title: Head of Christ

 

Born in Tesuque, New Mexico, in 1923 to Isador and Agnes Ortega, Ben Ortega and his two brothers and sister were raised by an aunt and uncle after his mother died in an automobile accident when he was two and his father died when he was six.

At eighteen, he went to serve in World War II with the 240th Combat Engineers. He returned home three years later. Back in Tesuque, he enrolled in school where he took two years of cabinet making and machine shop in Santa Fe, and then planned to go to California with classmates to find work. "While I was waiting to go, I decided I was going to carve something just to pass the time," he is quoted as saying, "so I carved a little Saint Francis and a little Madonna." When asked if he had anything he could contribute to a benefit sale for the Santa Fe Opera, Ben donated his two nine inch carvings. They sold at once. "That evening, there was somebody knocking on my door. This lady from New York asked, 'Are you Ben Ortega, the artist?' I said, 'No, I'm just Ben Ortega.' She asked me to make a Saint Francis. When she came back, her sister wanted a Madonna. A friend wanted a crucifix."

A month later he was asked to bring carvings to an exhibit at the International Fine Arts Museum in Santa Fe. All the pieces were sold within an hour. His enjoyment of creating the art is clearly demonstrated in his pieces. He has fashioned thousands of St. Francis's and Madonnas. He was known to say, "They always come out different."

His favorite subject was Saint Frances because it was the first piece he sold. "I tell everybody that Saint Francis didn't want me to go to California", he said partly joking. Today, his carvings are in collections world-wide, though he never planned to be an artist. "I used to sit in the kitchen and make little faces. I made two Indians, small pieces, and then I carved a little Saint Francis. Mrs. Myrtle Stedman [the artist and builder] saw my carvings. She loved them so much I gave her the Indians. I used to work for her, picking apples and peaches when I was a little boy."
Mr. Ortega has become internationally recognized for his signature carving style, which has earned him several Grand Prize awards at Santa Fe's annual Spanish Market, among others. In addition to emphasizing the natural form of the wood, Ortega's delicate features and graceful lines create imagery that reflects his strong spirituality and artistic mastery. His love of woodcarving and talent for seeing figures in wood are now easily recognized by others as the beautiful works of folk art which they represent.

He would begin by gathering twisted roots of cottonwood, aspen and cedar and, from there, his vivid imagination took over. In his warm Tesuque gallery now operated by his son, Pete, you can still find examples of his saints, biblical characters, angels, and animals. Most of them are left in the naturally beautiful tones of the wood.

His nativity scenes were used on the set of Perry Como's "Christmas in Santa Fe", permanent collections are at the International Folk Art Museum, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the U. S. Embassy in Paris, the Smithsonian Institute of American Art where he took part in the Bicentennial Festival of American Folklife, and in hundreds of private homes, churches and chapels throughout the United States. In Santa Fe he was honored as a "Living Treasure".
Mr. Ortega died in 1998 but left a carving legacy in his family, now in its fourth generation of woodcarvers employing the patriarch's indistinguishable style.

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MIGUEL PÉREZ

 

Title: La Sagrada Familia

Miguel Pérez was born and raised in Durango, Mexico and has nine sisters and four brothers. Miguel came to the United States at the young age of fourteen to begin his working career. His employment led him into several states and cities and finally Santa Fe.

On June 2, 1990, Miguel was in an automobile accident with fatal results for one of Miguel's co-workers and unfortunately resulted in Miguel being paralyzed. At that time Miguel had no idea that this accident would be the beginning of a newfound career.

His stay at the hospital was a long dreadful three months that led him into severe depression. He was immediately surrounded by hospital staff that would seek assistance for this young man who was suddenly stranded in a town without family.

Miguel's physical therapist introduced him to a woman named Teri Hutchison. Teri had previously received therapy and was instrumental in encouraging Miguel during this unfortunate time. Miguel, unable to speak English and Teri, not knowing Spanish, both proceeded on their new adventure. Her first assignment was to have Miguel carve a wooden egg with the packing knife she provided. Miguel quickly finished this project and tackled a small elephant carving to proudly demonstrate to Teri that he was ready for the challenge. They met once a week with the group of the Chat' N Chipaway Club at the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church Meeting Center carving bultos and relief sculptures.

Miguel is married to Honorina; they have one daughter, Fabiola. Miguel credits his devoted wife of fourteen years for all her love and support of her family. Honorina is the warp that binds the family together and he calls her his consentida y amor. Miguel says without her assistance it would take him much longer to accomplish all his tasks. Honorina is Miguel's "Right-Hand" in all his endeavors and his artistic undertakings from making homemade gesso to assisting with final sanding. His immediate family, which includes his younger sister and brother, Carolina and Jose, accompany Miguel to his art shows. They collectively set up and take down his displays at each show Miguel proudly attends.

The Pérez family is unique, full of life, laughter and a sense of pride in one another. Their true devotion to God is demonstrative in their family and truly present in the art they share. If one speaks to Miguel about his work, he so humbly states that his accomplishments have all come about from the grace of God.

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CARLOS RAEL

 

Title: Imaculada Corazón

Carlos A. Rael, a 51 year old native of Questa, New Mexico, became an artist as a result of an injury that redirected his life from a construction contractor to one of a spiritual nature and as a traditional New Mexico Santero.

The year 1996 was a dark one for Rael. His 36-year career as a paint contractor was cut short by a disabling back injury. As he slowly recuperated in bed, depression and worry set in. Worry over himself, over his family. He sought comfort in prayer and began drawing to help pass the time.

He gradually realized that, more and more, his drawings were of a religious nature, and he had what could easily be called an epiphany.

"All of a sudden it sort of hit me like a brick on the head that God was telling me something, that there was something I could do," he said. "It dawned on me that this was the direction he was pulling me in." Carlos then realized he received a gift that could come only from God, as well as a sense that this was his destiny.

Carlos is fortunate to have become a student and friend of the renowned New Mexico Santero Gustavo Victor Goler, whom he has studied with since 1999. He says Goler gave him wisdom, knowledge and focus for his energies, helping him become more aware of what he needed to do in Carlos' new purpose in life. "It's been a tremendous help", he said.

Carlos moved from drawing to carving, working in the ancient Hispanic folk art tradition of the santero, carving religious iconic figures, a tradition which has endured for centuries since the Spanish Colonial period, when New Mexico was cut off from the Catholic church and had no access to the religious art in Mexico City. The Santero tradition was born of necessity, and Rael's was as well.

In 1999 Carlos was accepted for Spanish Market and was selected for the Spanish Market 2000 poster award with his figure of San Ramon Nonato. In 2002, Rael won Best of Santos at the Taos Fall Arts Festival for his piece "Nuestra Senora de Loretto with Nicho" and third place at the New Mexico State Fair's Hispanic Art building for his "Santo Niño Perdido."

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JOSÉ GUADALUPE HERNÁNDEZ REYNA

 

Title: San Judas

José Guadalupe Hernández Reyna comes from a four hundred year artistic tradition in his family.

Born in the city of Cuernavaca Morelos in Mexico in 1955, the artist began at an early age to work as a sculptor and restorer in the workshop of his parents. It was from both that he learned the ancient techniques of three-dimensional "bulto" and two-dimensional "retablo" saint-making. These were traditions conserved from generation to generation in his family since Mexico's sixteenth century evangelization.

Trained at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, he has devoted his life to the production of art, which includes religious sculpture that is minute to monumental in scale, as well as articulated, caballete painting, and two-dimensional saint painting and restoration.

His sculptural works can be found in churches and in private collections in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, Japan, Indonesia, Venezuela, Panama and Costa Rica. Among other recognitions, in 1981 he was distinguished with the National First Prize in Painting from the Consejo Nacional de Cultura.

His three-dimensional "bultos" are made in the traditional "estofato" technique developed by the Spanish and Italians during the middle-ages. After carving the art piece from wood, gesso is applied in several coats. A red clay slip covers the gesso, and then 22 karate gold leaf is meticulously applied to the entire piece. Oil pigment is then applied to the image. When dry, the oil pigment is selectively removed to reveal the gold leaf. This technique was developed to replicate the porcelain art objects seen by the Spanish and Italians in their travels to the Far East.

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ALFREDO RODRÍGUEZ

 

Title: San Francisco

"There were many influences which led me to carve and paint religious images.

"It seems that carving wood has always been a part of my life. I can remember as a child sitting under the shade of a pecan tree in the heat of summer carving faces and animals using the scrap wood and fallen branches of the tree.

"Also, like many Mexican Americans, a sense of religious tradition has consistently been a part of my family life. During my childhood I recall my maternal grandfather constructing simple "nichos", when necessary, using wood from discarded fruit crates.

"In 1987, as a result of visiting the Spanish Governor's Palace and Missions in San Antonio, I developed a serious interest in the art and material culture of the Colonial Period. It was at this time I managed to find several books on the subject and proceeded to create my first Santo.

"By 1988, because I was dissatisfied with the quality of my work, I decided to seek assistance. It was by chance that I read a New Mexico publication advertising the work of Charles Carrillo, a Santero. During the summer of 1988, en route to San Antonio from a vacation in California, I stopped in for a visit. Although this first introduction to the Santos of New Mexico lasted only one Saturday morning, I gained insight, information, and encouragement to last a lifetime. I will be forever grateful to Charlie!

"Since that encounter with the Maestro, Charlie Carrillo, I make it a point to stop by his residence either in Spring or Summer annually to get feedback on my most current work, as well as share information I may have found in South Texas and Mexico."

Alfredo Rodríguez is the winner of numerous awards, including a certificate from La Universidad de Puerto Rico for his participation in their I Feria Internacional de Artesanías en Puerto Rico, FIAPRI 2000. He is also a full-time firefighter in San Antonio.

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ELLEN SANTISTEVAN

 

Title: N. S. de los Dolores de la Guerra

Ellen Santistevan is the youngest child of Peter and Margareta Limburg. She comes from a long line of artists in her mother’s family, with talents ranging from painting to ceramics, metal working to bonsai design. She began painting devotional art in 1995. Though she began working with acrylics, she switched to natural homemade pigments after being taught by Charlie Carrillo, a Santa Fe santero who rediscovered the techniques of the early New Mexico santeros. Ellen carves all her own wood for both retablos and bultos, and also prepares her own gesso and paints from natural materials. Every piece is unique, and she gladly welcomes custom work for interested buyers.

In 2003, she won a Juror’s Recognition Award at the Sierra Arts International Exhibition in El Paso, TX, competing against artists in Texas, New Mexico, and five border states of Mexico. With her husband, Mark, she won 3rd prize in Traditional Hispanic Art at the NM State Fair in 2001. Other exhibitions include the 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004 Santero Shows at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Albuquerque; Stele Gallery Devotional Art Show, Las Cruces, 2000; the Tomé Gallery Devotional Art Shows in 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005; and the 2003 and 2004 San Felipe de Neri Devotional Art Shows in Old Town Albuquerque. She exhibits her artwork at the Móntez Gallery in Santa Fe and participated in two group shows there in 2002 and one in 2004.

Commissions include a pair of processional crucifixes for Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Peralta, NM (2003), award plaques for MANA de Albuquerque Brindís a la mujer (2000 and 2001), and gifts for speakers from the National Federation of Teachers presented by the Albuquerque Federation of Teachers (2001).

Ellen is a volunteer for the De Colores Hispanic Cultural Foundation. She and her husband, Mark, are heads of the altar servers’ ministry at their church, and she is also the president of the Alkali Anns Garden Club in Belen, NM.

Together with her husband, Mark A. Santistevan, she created Santos de Santistevan, a cooperative and creative partnership dedicated to creating devotional art. Their motto is, “Connecting people with their faith through art.”

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HORACIO VALDEZ



Title: San Rafael

Considered the most important santero of the second half of the twentieth century, Horacio Valdez (b. 1929 Dixon, NM; d.1992 Apodaca, NM) began carving as an adult in the mid-1970s after an accident crushed his hand in 1975. "I couldn't hold a hammer," he said, "but I could whittle." Thus began his prolific career where he is noted for his influence in re-energizing traditional religious imagery in the highest quality workmanship.

"I started carving as a hobby," he explained, "just to pass the time" as he convalesced. However, an instant genius in carving and painting, Horacio never returned to construction work after his hand healed. Instead, he began to make the most beautiful bultos (three-dimensional saints), and occasionally retablos (two-dimensional paintings of saints on wood) and reredos (altar screens). Unfamiliar with pigments, he walked into an art supply store and the salesman sold him acrylics. His medium throughout his life, acrylics became an acceptable medium, replacing the natural, home-made pigments used by many of his peers. Keeping his palate simple, like that of his predecessors, his application of acrylics were rendered in a warm, washed-look resembling natural pigments. Looking at books of work by his artistic antecedents, he worked as they did, more from spiritual inspiration and faith. "Eran artistas de fe, no de escuela," Horacio said of Rafael Aragón and other early santeros.

Although he considered his blue and green crucifixes as his most important work, Horacio was equally known for his death carts, aka Doña Sebastiana, La Muerte, or Carreta de la Muerte. The bulto is of a woman skeleton who sits in a cart typically with a bow and arrow (ergo, "Mrs. Sebastian") or other hand-carved weapons of death. The last part of a procession held on Good Friday by the Hermandad de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, or penitentes, throughout Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, she represents benevolent death and Christ's victory over death. As with the black widow, she entices man to her (her legs are always open) and, after consummation, she kills her lover. One of Horacio's death carts, entitled "Carreta de Muerte" (1978) resides in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Indeed, all major folk art museums, including the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the International Folk Art Museum, the Museum of American Folk Art, the Taylor Museum, and the Albuquerque Museum, own at least one death cart by him. It is a particularly difficult piece to carve, demonstrating the carver's true skills and artistic aesthetic.

Raised as an orphan after his mother died in 1942 and his father, a World War II veteran, in 1943, Horacio was raised by his grandmother and uncles. Although content to concentrate on his many world-wide commissions, this humble artist was kind enough to permit Móntez Gallery to represent his work. It was this orphan boy who named the business Móntez Gallery and who made the business the success it is today.

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FRANK ZAMORA



N. S. de Guadalupe

BORN: 1958 Denver Colorado. Attended Escuela Nacional de Pintura y Grabado "La Esmeralda" 1988-1994 Mexico D.F. Graduating with a bachelors degree in Arts. Exhibiting on both sides of the border since 1994. Abandoning contemporary art in 2007 for traditional New Mexican folk art, using materials, methods, and iconography which are over 200 years old.

2008: George O'Bryan workshop (Northern New Mexican, 19th Century wood working techniques). Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico

2007 Charlie Carrillo workshop, Santa Fe, New Mexico

1988-1994: Escuela National de Pintura y Grabado "La Esmeralda" Mexico, D.F.

SELECTED SOLO SHOWS:

2006: Galleria Velasco, Mexico City

2003: Galleria Tonalli, Mexico City

1998: La Panaderia, Mexico City

SELECTED GROUP SHOWS:

2008: Selected to participate in Traditional and Winter Markets, Spanish Colonial Arts Society, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santos with a Twist, CHAC Gallery, Denver, Colorado

2007: Spanish Art Market, Pikes Peak Community College, Colorado Springs, Colorado

2006: Never Leaving Azltan, Museo de las Americas, Denver, Colorado

Septima Biennal Monterrey, Monterrey, N.L. Mexico

1998: Il Salon de Artes Visuales Seccion Bidimensional, Centro de las Artes, Mexico City

1996: South West 96 Museum of Fine Arts/Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico

1995: CO Visions Recognition Awards, Denver, Colorado

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