Spanish Market

Grand Prize Winner

Joseph López of Española secures a major award for his painted bultos and relief carvings.

- By Arnold Vigil

THE GRAND PRIZE WINNER at the 2016 Traditiona­l Spanish Market, Joseph Ascensión López, knows that an artist draws inspiratio­n from many unusual things and sometimes in the most unlikely of places. But the creator of the winning piece, Cristo en Agonia: ¿Dios mío, Dios mío, por qué me as abandonago? (Christ in Agony: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?), admits that inspiratio­n for the work came from a plainly obvious site — a santos and bultos installati­on within the Palace of the Governors near the museum’s bookstore.

The 47-year-old López, who has shown at Spanish Market since he was a youth in the early 1980s, says he felt compelled to take numerous trips on his lunch hour to the Palace bookstore off the Plaza to glimpse a particular carving in the 12th-century Crusader Cross or Jerusalem Cross style, made by an unknown New Mexican santero. It is believed that this carver, known only as the Master of Lattice-Work Cross, created the piece sometime in the 1800s.

“My goal was not to copy exactly what he had done but to re-create it in my own style,” López says. “That’s [ Cristo en Agonia] the only piece I took to Spanish Market. I worked on it from about Thanksgivi­ng until a week before market opened.”

Cristo en Agonia is inspiratio­nal in its own right, as it stands nearly 4 feet tall, nearly 2 feet wide and almost a foot in depth. It is fashioned from New Mexico aspen, pine, Russian olive branches and thorns, string, natural pigments and homemade gesso.

The months-long art project paid off for the La Mesilla artist, as it not only won first place in the painted bulto category and Best of Show but also the Purchase Award from the Spanish Colonial Arts Society. The work is now in SCAS’s permanent collection and on view at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art on Museum Hill.

“It’s always nice when your artwork goes into a public place like a church or a museum as compared with a private collection where it isn’t easy to see,” López says. “All my pieces have a mysterious journey — you never know where they are going to end up. They choose for themselves.”

This year, the 6-foot-4 López, a former basketball player at Española Valley High School and Grand Canyon State University, says he is entering work in other categories, including retablos and traditiona­l woodcarvin­g, apart from his usual painted bultos and wooden reliefs. He says that when he began showing as a youth at SpanishMar­ket, he focused on straw appliqué, which he now incorporat­es into some of the retablos he creates.

For more informatio­n about Joseph López, visit

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