TRAVELS | October 24, 2014

A Santa fe art journey: Spanish art of new mexico 

An insight into two Spanish influenced artists

Carrie, Founder & Chief Wanderer

Every year, New Mexico celebrates this influence during the Spanish Market which showcases Hispanic art and artists. To see the Spanish art influence firsthand we drove to Taos. Our method of transportation was one of the more carbon friendly options: a full 10-passenger van. The ride up to Taos was absolutely stunning, with desert landscapes, large rock formations, and river-carved canyons.

Once in Taos, we met Victor Goler, a Santa Fe native with Latin American roots who carves Santos. Santos are religious figures depicted in wood carvings, which can take the form of bultos (wood carvings) or retablos (paintings on flat wood carvings). Victor is an expert carver in both bultos and retablos, having started carving in high school. With several decades of experience creating wood carvings, Victor has developed a unique style, incorporating humor in what is a very conventional subject matter. One of my favorite examples of this humor is his Santos carving of Madonna de Ghisallo, the Patron Saint of Cyclists. Victor depicted this Saint by showing Madonna on a bicycle and adding another satirical twist by including Jesus in the bicycle baby seat. In addition to creating his own carvings, Victor also preserves historical pieces through restoration and conservation.

Once returning back to Santa Fe, we met with Mel Rivera a straw artist. Straw applique was introduced to New Mexico by the Spaniards as they substituted gold and mother-of-pearl inlays with straw in crosses. Mel said he began straw art to help revive the dying art, and is continuing the tradition by teaching the artform. Mel pays homage to the Spanish traditions, creating crosses and boxes and uses traditional pueblo patterns in his designs but also plays with new images, both in form and style. For example, Mel depicted a hot air balloon on an ostrich egg for the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival. Mel’s passion shone through as he talked about his process of creating the pieces: first growing and farming the straw himself, hand carving the pieces and inlaying the straw by hand. Working with such fine and finicky materials, Mel creates beautiful pieces that reflect the Spanish traditions.

It was uplifting to visit two very different artists, who are both keeping Spanish traditions alive in New Mexico.

To find out more about the Martha Struever Trip I went on, visit here.