Arbol de la Vida/Tree of Life by Sabinita López Ortiz (1994)
In the nearly 50 years since the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology has been in its present location, the Museum has hosted approximately 150 temporary exhibitions. Over the next few weeks, we will look back at some of them.
In the 1990s, Santeros (saint makers) Charles Carillo and Félix López worked with Maxwell Museum Curator Mari Lyn Salvador to co-curate a remarkable exhibition focused on the tradition of carved and painted wooden devotional images of northern New Mexico. The exhibition, which subsequently traveled the country, featured 90 works by 13 respected contemporary carvers.
Four santeros—Charles Carillo, Gustavo Victor Goler, Ramon José López, and Luis Tapiawere—were featured as individuals. Works by the remaining nine were organized by family (the Romeros featuring Marie Romero Cash, Anita Romero Jones and the López family of Cordova featuring Gloria López Córdova, Sabanita López Ortiz). The final grouping, La Escuelita including works by Félix López, Manuel López, José Benjamin López, Le Roy López, Luisito López featured the work of a school of carvers. Santos made by 21 children and grandchildren children of the carvers also was highlighted, demonstrating the multi-generational tradition of carving
Featuring bultos (statues), retablos (paintings on wood), and reredos (altar screens), the exhibition provided historical context on New Mexico’s santero tradition, but primarily focused on the present, featuring (in Spanish and English), the words and perspectives of carvers themselves.
References: Mari Lyn Salvador. ed., 1995. Cuando Hablan los Santos: Contemporary Santero Traditions from Northern New Mexico. Albuquerque: Maxwell Museum of Anthropology.