Santa Fe, NM
Manitou Galleries, June 6-20
This story was featured in the June 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Two hundred years ago, New Mexican santeros—artisans of religious imagery—depicted the Holy Child with a blue robe, short red cape, and beatific smile. That was then; this is now, and these days, El Santo Niño might also have a pair of big, pink dice dangling from a rearview mirror over his head, especially if he is EL SANTO NIÑO DEL CAMINO (the Holy Child of the Road) by contemporary santero Arthur Lopez.
Like many New Mexico artists, Lopez draws on and honors generations of cultural tradition while establishing a distinctive style that clearly emerges from the world of today. The award-winning 43-year-old santero is one of three native New Mexican artists in a show entitled New Mexico Vision, on view June 6-20 at Manitou Galleries in Santa Fe. The show also features paintings by Santa Fean Alvin Gill-Tapia and Miguel Martínez of Taos. All three artists are “masters of bringing the spirit of New Mexico into contemporary vision,” notes Manitou’s marketing manager, Frank Rose. “Each artist’s work is iconic in its own right.” An artists’ reception takes place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 6.
Lopez brings to the show a half-dozen new bultos, or three-dimensional carvings of saints, among them busts of St. Francis, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be canonized. Combining old and new methods and materials, the artist prepares natural pigments and also employs watercolor in works he describes as transcending yet preserving his heritage and faith. “I enjoy bringing the traditional into the modern world and, in doing so, honoring the tradition and helping carry it on,” he says.
Gill-Tapia, born and raised in Santa Fe, finds inspiration in the softly sculptural forms of adobe buildings, which have nurtured him artistically and spiritually throughout his life. His abstracted renderings of centuries-old churches against monochromatic skies suggest the powerful presence of the physical structures themselves, as well as the vitality of community and continuity they represent. “I love watching the light change on their forms throughout the day, especially the early morning and late- afternoon light with its beautiful, elongated shadows,” says Gill-Tapia. “They offer us, as humans in and around these buildings, a sense of visual mystery.”
Martínez is widely known for portraying the female face in countless subtle shades of emotion set against diverse backgrounds, yet always as the quintessential symbol of feminine beauty and strength. While most of his paintings in this show feature women’s faces framed by Southwestern landscapes, others—in a new direction for the artist—are set in the interiors of New Mexico churches. In another recent variation incorporating animal companions, one piece presents a contemplative woman with her cat. “Each face I paint, to me, has a different identity,” Martínez says. “But I feel from the beginning they have all shared a common bond—their values, their character—things almost forgotten in our everyday routines. These women are upright, strong yet gentle, proud of who they are. They have nothing to hide.” —Gussie Fauntleroy
Featured in the June 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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