San­tero Gus­tavo Vic­tor Goler

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - ARTIST GUS­TAVO VIC­TOR GOLER Flight Into Egypt,

Taos-based artist Gus­tavo Vic­tor Goler came into his own as a master san­tero slowly, help­ing out around his un­cle’s con­ser­va­tion stu­dios in Santa Fe. At the age of eleven he be­gan an in­for­mal ap­pren­tice­ship, learn­ing by ob­serv­ing fam­ily mem­bers carv­ing wood while sim­ply hang­ing out. By thir­teen, he was help­ing out with con­ser­va­tion projects, work­ing on wood frames and fur­ni­ture. “Even­tu­ally, they taught me to work on saints,” he said. Goler didn’t yet know that be­com­ing a san­tero would be­come his pro­fes­sion, but a fire had been lit. “I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily go out and pur­sue it per se,” he said. “It sort of just hap­pened.”

As teenager, he made a few pieces of his own as gifts for friends and fam­ily, copied from older orig­i­nals. In 1988, two years af­ter open­ing his own con­ser­va­tion shop in Santa Fe, he was ju­ried into Tra­di­tional Span­ish Mar­ket for the first — but not the last — time. He has won more than 30 awards at mar­ket over the years, the most re­cent be­ing the Span­ish Colo­nial Arts So­ci­ety’s Masters Award for Life­time Achieve­ment, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s high­est honor.

Goler’s con­ser­va­tion work has fo­cused on his­toric Span­ish colo­nial-era bul­tos and retab­los, and he made an in-depth study of New Mex­ico san­teros as well as of the his­tory and iconog­ra­phy of saints. His clients have in­cluded Larry Frank, whose for­mi­da­ble col­lec­tion of Span­ish colo­nial art is housed in the Palace of the Gov­er­nors. Goler was priv­i­leged to make a sur­vey of the col­lec­tion. “I ba­si­cally had this mu­seum at my fin­ger­tips that I could study,” he said.

In terms of style, Goler’s prac­tice em­braces old and new forms of saint-mak­ing. In his early years he was a tra­di­tion­al­ist, carv­ing pop­u­lar saints and us­ing nat­u­ral, hand-gath­ered pig­ments and siz­ing, but he now bor­rows from con­tem­po­rary im­agery as seen in his carv­ing with its fig­ure of Joseph pi­lot­ing a pro­pel­ler plane high over the pyra­mids and Mary and a young Jesus seated be­hind him. “I like to add a lit­tle bit of hu­mor to my pieces, but it’s never sac­ri­le­gious. I would never do some­thing to in­sult the Church,” said Goler, who was raised Catholic. His poly­chrome bul­tos don’t re­ally de­vi­ate from his­toric de­pic­tions of saints. Rather, he adapts con­tem­po­rary iconog­ra­phy to the older forms, em­bel­lish­ing them and giv­ing them a more up-to-date feel with­out negat­ing their Span­ish colo­nial roots.

Goler be­gan work­ing in a con­tem­po­rary vein when he saw pieces by fel­low carvers, in­clud­ing Ni­cholas Her­rera and Luis Tapia, that in­spired him to try some­thing new. “As I evolved and grew and stud­ied dif­fer­ent san­teros, I kept abreast of what they were do­ing,” he said. “I en­joy chal­leng­ing my­self and pro­gress­ing with my work. Af­ter all th­ese years, it helps to reach a broader au­di­ence where you can ap­peal to peo­ple who are not nec­es­sar­ily de­vout Catholics.”

— Michael Abatemarco

Gus­tavo Vic­tor Goler:

Doña Seb­s­tiana, 2008, carved wood, gesso wa­ter­col­ors, nat­u­ral pig­ments, and beeswax

Gus­tavo Vic­tor Goler

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