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. “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 incredible female carvers and other women artists who are working at the highest skill level within the santos tradition,” said Dial-Kay.
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.
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 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.