Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of New Mexico

Santa Fe, NM



New Mexican Madonnas, 1775-1998


Sixty images of the Virgin Mary explore her influence on two centuries of New Mexican art in the exhibit New Mexican Madonnas, 1775-1998, which continues through

The images -- bultos, retablos and straw appliqué -- are by historic and contemporary New Mexican artists. Curator Robin Farwell Gavin's exhibit in the Hispanic Heritage Wing discusses the meanings of such different titles of the Virgin as the "Immaculate Conception" " Our Lady of Mount Carmel," and "Our Lady of Solitude" and explains the attributes of each image for easy identification.

"According to pious belief," says Gavin, "miracles are sometimes performed by Our Lady through specific images of her, in which case the image itself becomes a source for iconography of the Virgin. Out of respect for her, these images of the Virgin are cared for, cleaned, and sometimes clothed."

Included are the works of 11 known and anonymous historic artists and 23 contemporary santeros. The earliest is a panel from an altar screen by Bernardo Miera y Pacheco (1714-1785) the latest images were produced in 1998. Among contemporary artists are Arlene Cisneros Sena, Anita Romero Jones, Donna Wright de Romero, Gloria López, Frank Alarid David Nabor Lucero, Rhonda Crespin, Felix López, Diana Moya Lujan, Cruz López, Jerry Mondragón, Marie Romero Cash, Luisito Lujan, Frankie Nazario Lucero, Krissa Marla López, Alcario Otero, Robert and Annie Romeró and Raymond López. Youth artists are Roán and Estrellita Carrillo, Genevieve Leitner, and Jerry Martinez. (left: Molleno, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad/The Mourning Mother, 1815-1845. Pine, gesso, water-based pigments. The angels hold the Crown of Thorns and three nails, symbols of the passion (suffering) and crucifixion of Christ. Fred Harvey Collection of the International Folk Art Foundation.)

Representing the historic santeros are images by Molleno, the Laguna Santero, José Aragón, Rafael Aragón,the Quill Pen Santero, the A.J. Santero, Pedro Antonio Fresquis, José Benito Ortega, and the Santo Niño, Santero.

Spanish colonists of the 16th century brought the earliest images of the Virgin to New Mexico. Made by artists in Spain and Mexico, the images comforted settlers in their new home and helped the friars to convert Native Americans to Christianity. The earliest surviving image is La Conquistadora (Our Lady of Peace), which was made in Spain and brought to New Mexico in 1625. It is now permanently housed at St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe and is the central figure in Fiesta de Santa Fe. (left: Quill Pen Santero, Nuestra Señora de la Piedad/The Pietá, 1830-1850. Pine, gesso, water-based pigments. A rare depiction in New Mexican art, the Pietá shows the Virgin Mary, the Mourning Mother, with the body of Christ in her lap. In the background are the Crown of Thorns, three nails and the Holy Cross, all references to Christ's passion (suffering) and crucifixion.)

By the 1630s, Christian images were being produced in New Mexico by Hispanos and Native Americans. These early images, many painted on animal hide, borrowed heavily from Spanish and Flemish paintings, sculptures and prints. Over the next two centuries New Mexican artists developed a style distinctly their own, combining standard Christianity with a unique regional aesthetic.

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For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/26/10

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