Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
Taylor Museum for Southwestern Studies
Colorado Springs, CO
By the Grace of Light: Images of Faith from Catholic New Mexico
With photographs by acclaimed fine-art photographer Craig Varjabedian, the exhibition By the Grace of Light: Images of Faith from Catholic New Mexico began a twelve city national exhibition tour in 1998 extending through the year 2000.
Within the exhibition, Mr, Varjabedian's fifty black and white photographs are combined with words by the Most Reverend Michael J. Sheehan, Archbishop of Santa Fe, and were produced in conjunction with the 400th anniversary -- the Cuarto Centennial -- of the arrival of Catholic faith to North America and specifically to New Mexico. The exhibition is curated by Cathy Wright, Director and Chief Curator of the Taylor Museum at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Included with the exhibition are traditional contemporary Hispanic santos from the Taylor Museum along with historical artifacts from the collection of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
The exhibition is accompanied by a newly published photography book, titled By the Grace of Light: Images of Faith from Catholic New Mexico, Photographs by Craig Varjabedian, published by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in April 1998. Included with Varjabedian's photographs are essays by Archbishop Sheehan, San Francisco arts writer Mag Dimond and the Taylor Museum's Cathy Wright.
Perhaps in no other state of the union is the Catholic church and images of faith more ever present in the lives of its citizens -- Catholic and non-Catholic alike -- than in New Mexico. As one casts a quiet eye across the land, the perceptive viewer soon notices a host of venerable objects that contain some facet of New Mexico Catholic iconography. These include humble adobe churches, low riders adorned with Catholic imagery, hand-crafted santos and well known santo makers, diverse representations of the Virgin of Guadalupe, roadside crosses and many other subjects. Varjabedian spent three years completing this body of photographic work. After considering the richness and beauty of these images and learning of the year-long celebrations being planned-by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Varjabedian sought and received the unqualified support of Archbishop Sheehan in creating an exhibition of his photographs that would be combined with the Archbishop's words to mark the occasion.
Craig Varjabedian is an acclaimed photographer of the lands and peoples of the American Southwest. Working often with a large-format view camera and almost exclusively with black and white photographic materials, Varjabedian creates sensitive and luminous photographs with a strong spiritual connection to place. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and numerous others for his photographic work. His previous work includes the well-known traveling photographic exhibition and fine-art book, En Divina Luz: The Penitente Moradas of New Mexico. This body of work presents for the first time images of the humble chapter meeting houses belonging to the elusive penitential lay order known as The Pious Fraternity of Our Father Jesus set within the backdrop of a powerful New Mexico landscape. The exhibition was received with much enthusiasm at museum venues across the United States. (En Divina Luz translates from Spanish to mean "In Divine Light")
Of Mr. Varjabedian's photographs, the late well-known photographic historian Beaumont Newhall said, "In my considered opinion, the remarkable photographs by Craig Varjabedian are not only beautiful but also extremely valuable documents of architecture, culture, and lifestyle of Northern New Mexico. His work is extremely valuable from both artistic and historical viewpoints."
By the Grace of Light: Images of Faith from Catholic New Mexico has received the generous support of the Peter & Madeleine Martin Foundation for the Creative Arts of San Francisco, California and Taos, New Mexico.
Photographs by Craig Varjabedian from top to bottom: Euologio and Zoraida Ortega, Santeros, Velarde, New Mexico, 1996; Santa Nino Chapel, La Manga, New Mexico, 1997; Dexter's Cross, Santa Rosa de Lima Church, Abiquiu, NM, 1996.
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