ABIQUIÚ – Charles Carrillo wants to reunite his family – in Santa Fe, in Catholic land, with more than a pinch of holiday flavor.
The longtime Neo-Mexican santero, known for his traditional two-dimensional Spanish religious paintings called retablos and sculptures of saints, known as bultos, started an artists-focused winter market.
The first Spanish Market Artists’ Winter Fair, which will take place the first weekend in December, will feature around 70 artists, all of whom line up at the annual winter market of the Spanish Society of Colonial Arts.
The move comes after company executives told Carrillo and other artists in the market that they are not planning a winter market this year. This market, which began in 1989 in Santa Fe, moved to Albuquerque in 2013.
You might call it an artistic revolt, but Carrillo said he doesn’t want to compete with the arts society when it comes to producing markets. Noting that the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the winter market last year, he said, “We can’t go two years without a winter show. This is a tradition not only of the Spanish Society of Colonial Arts, but also of artists.
“I financed the money to rent the space. It will be free parking, free entry.
If nothing else, he said, this decision proves that artists “can put the pen in our hands”, that is, produce their own shows.
Jennifer Berkley, executive director of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, said by phone Thursday that her organization was planning a deal but did not announce it until Carrillo launched its own in September.
“It was a matter of crossed threads,” she said. “We got the message that Charlie had done a bunch of work to install one [a market] around the time we were preparing ours.
“We thought, ‘Great, he’s already doing it.’ We didn’t want to be in competition; we want artists to be successful, so we pulled our plans out of respect.
Part of the need for a winter show is to make sure working artists make money, Carrillo said. But keeping the energy of the local Spanish traditional arts alive is even more important, said Carrillo and other artists involved in the show.
Grants artist Jerry Montoya, who works in tin and also creates altarpieces, said by phone Wednesday that Spanish colonial artisans must do what they can, including organizing their own markets, to publicize their work and keep the tradition alive.
“We are losing our culture,” said Montoya, who has produced his own shows in the Grants and Gallup areas, including Catholic churches, for about 20 years. Winter art exhibitions have become a tradition in itself for these artists, he said.
“This is our spiritual work,” he said of the art form, which features many religious-themed works of art. “And Christmas and winter are a big thing when we sell most of our santos.”
The Santa Fe Show will take place at the Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Church on College Avenue. Carrillo said he liked the idea of putting on the show at a Catholic church during the holiday season. On Tuesday, Carrillo said he had nearly 70 artists engaged in the show and room to add five or six more.
“We’re trying to rock and roll,” Carrillo said on a visit to the home and studio in Abiquiú that he shares with his wife, Debbie, just a day after a constant flow of visitors came. be moved to the location as part of the Abiquiú Studio Tour. .
The pressure is on. Carrillo said that most artists who maintain the traditional methods of Spanish colonial arts need more than six months to prepare for a big performance. Since it kicked off the ball in September, participating artists have less than three months to build inventory to sell.
Carrillo said he was also motivated to bring the show back to Santa Fe from Albuquerque – where, he said, sales and artist participation were “underwhelming” in 2019, before the pandemic hit.
He said if the show is successful, there “may be” more independent winter art exhibitions like this in the future.
Santa Fe santera Arlene Cisneros Sena said artists working in the Spanish colonial style often participate in independently produced markets to “keep traditional New Mexico work great and educate the public about who we are.”
“It is important to keep traditions alive,” she said by telephone on Wednesday. “This is who we are. This is what New Mexico is. It’s the only rhythm in the world, this tiny corner of the world, where we do the work we do. And that is why it is very important to do a winter show.
Carrillo and several artists interviewed for this story said they had little to no concerns that the tradition was fading. Buyers continue to shop in the marketplace and online, they say, and there is no sign that the overall market for this art is suffering.
Berkley said performers in the Spanish market who took part in the July show in the Plaza reported “good sales.” She said that because these artists pay their own entry fees and handle their own transactions, market officials cannot track exact sales numbers.
She said if anything, there seems to be a “renewed interest” in the art form.
Ray Hernández-Durán, professor of art history and museum studies at the University of New Mexico, echoed this thought, saying interest was growing in both historic Spanish colonial art. and for contemporary artists who carry on the tradition.
At a broader level, he said, more and more museums, higher education institutions and other arts organizations are hiring curators and experts in Spanish and Mexican art and organizing more events. ‘exhibitions focused on this art form.
“When big institutions are interested in colonial art, other people are interested,” Hernández-Durán said by phone Thursday. “One of the things that impacts people’s recognition of colonial art is when one of the major institutions shows interest.”
He said contemporary markets like the one Carrillo produces are designed to preserve traditions and continually draw attention to them.
This is because, says Hernández-Durán, people can see that “this is a living tradition; it is not the past.
He said he liked the idea of artists coming together to create their own show outside the parameters of the big picture of any formal organization.
“In my opinion, there can’t be too many,” Hernández-Durán said.
“I think people are going to be curious. I think there is going to be a lot of interest because it is presented by local Hispanic artists from the community. And people are going to be interested because they love art.