April 8, 2020 Taos, New Mexico

The Harwood Museum of Art

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Friday, May 1 - Sunday, November 15, 2020

LAS SANTERAS: Images of Faith and Folklore

Gallery: Hispanic Traditions Gallery

The first major exhibition of its kind, “Las Santeras” celebrates the influence of contemporary female carvers working with the cultural devotional arts of New Mexico and Colorado.

“This is the most significant exhibition of female santos carvers ever curated together and exhibited in this way,” said Nicole Dial-Kay, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections.

Gustavo Victor Goler brought the idea for the exhibit to the Harwood, and is serving as guest curator of “Las Santeras.” A New Mexican artist and art conservator who restores works of devotional art, Goler is well-versed in the cultural arts of the region. “I thought it would be interesting to have an in-depth study on the Santeras and their journeys and histories,” Goler said.

New Mexico possesses a unique history of devotional art creation within the United States. Beginning with the early Spanish settlers, the production of Saints was a necessity to practice their religious beliefs. Workshops soon rose up to fulfill the needs of new Churches and personal Chapels. The introduction of the railroad eventually changed the dynamics of the production of devotional work. Saints were made for sale to the general population, including tourists. In 1920-1930, the creators of Saints became known as “Santeros.” “Santeros” is a word used by scholars and artists alike to identify someone from New Mexico and Colorado who makes devotional art.

Although there is very little proof that women took part in the early creation of Saints, this changed in the early 1900s. Female carvers from Cordova, New Mexico who followed in the tradition of their elder family members began to emerge. These artists and others like them became known as “Santeras,” the female counterpart to the Santeros. The practice of making Saints is often passed down from family member to family member.

In this exhibition, the individual Santeras of New Mexico and Colorado are represented along with their works of art, with an emphasis on their carving talents, history, differences in styles and contemporary expressions. Many of these Santeras carve and paint, as well as being involved in other types of cultural arts of New Mexico. Several originate from generations of artists, while others have gained their own fame and high status through their perseverance and hard work.

The Santeras in this exhibition have received respected accolades for their art and have influenced many individuals in the cultural arts. Collectively, they have won awards at the Traditional Spanish Market in Santa Fe, as well as American Heritage Awards and Governors Awards. They are the torchbearers of their tradition, teaching and writing about their art, and influencing others. The devotional arts of New Mexico have been elevated to a status of international respect and recognition, in no small part, due to the work of these talented artists.

“My hope is that people walk away with a new appreciation for the art of the santos, with a broadened definition that now includes these twenty-one incredible female carvers and other women artists who are working at the highest skill level within the santos tradition,” says Dial-Kay.

“Las Santeras” exhibition includes works by New Mexico artists Benita Reino Lopez (Cordova), Sabinita Lopez-Ortiz (Cordova), Gloria Lopez Cordova (Cordova), Sandra Lopez (Cordova), Orlene Ortiz Cordova (Cordova), Orlinda Sherwood Lopez (Cordova), Jean Anaya Moya (Galisteo) Marie Romero Cash (Santa Fe), Monica Sosaya Halford (Santa Fe), Arlene Cisneros-Sena (Santa Fe), Rosina Lopez de Short (Santa Fe), Anita Romero-Jones (Santa Fe), Lorrie Garcia (Penasco), Rhonda Crespin (Jemez), Tomasita Rodriguez (Las Cruces), Krissa Maria Lopez (Espanola), Guadalupita Ortiz (Albuquerque), Bernadette Pino (Taos), and Lydia Garcia (Taos), as well as Colorado artists Roxanne Shaw (Nederland) and Catherine Robles-Shaw (Nederland).