June 21, 2021 Taos, New Mexico

The Harwood Museum of Art

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March 02, 2020


In this exhibition the influence of female artists working with the cultural devotional arts of New Mexico and Colorado will be explored. Steeped in history and tradition these women have paved their own paths in an artform that for decades has been largely dominated by male artists. Here we will introduce the backgrounds and diverse styles that has helped elevate these award, winning artists to the high stature they represent today.

Exhibition Description

New Mexico possesses a long history of devotional art production that no other state in the nation. Beginning with the early Spanish settlers we can start to see the production of Saints as a necessity to practice their religion. Over time there were workshops working together to fulfill the needs of new Churches and personal Chapels. The individuals that created these pieces did not consider themselves artists. They produced the work because there was a demand for paintings and statues of Saints that were hard to come by in Colonial times. The introduction of the railroad eventually changed the dynamics of the production of devotional work. We begin to see these pieces being made for sale to a general population including tourists. Sometime in the 1920-1930 these creators of Saints became known as Santeros. This is a word that is used by scholars and artists alike to identify someone from New Mexico and Colorado that makes devotional art.

Although there is very little proof that women took part in the early creation of Saints, we start to see a change in the early 1900’s. Around this time, we can start to identify female carvers from Cordova New Mexico that followed in the tradition of their elder family members. These artists and other 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. This tradition has helped to introduce the artform, and the cultural meanings that eventually resonated with many women. Today these Santeras are painters as well as carvers that have become highly influential and continue to pass down their artform to further generations.

In this exhibition The Santeras of New Mexico and Colorado will be represented along with their works of art. A timeline of history and movement among these artists will explain the history, differences in styles and contemporary expressions. There will be an emphasis on the sculptors to showcase their amazing carving talents that equal their male counterparts. Many of these Santeras carve and paint as well as being involved in other types of cultural arts of New Mexico. Several have long histories who come 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 are award winning artists and have influenced many individuals who are interested in the cultural arts. The devotional arts of New Mexico would not be as highly recognized today without their efforts.