Poster Artist Nicolás Otero.
When he was growing up in the Tomé area between Los Lunas and Belén, Nicolás Otero, this year’s Spanish Market Poster Artist, says no one around him dabbled in art. And it wasn’t until he was an underclassman at Los Lunas High School that he realized that he might possess an unknown and undeveloped talent.
Otero explains that Rhonda Crespin, from the outreach program of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, came to the Valencia County school, gave students a presentation and offered two apprenticeships to aspiring artists. Otero was one of two students selected, and he hasn’t stopped creating Spanish colonial art since. The 36-year-old says he immediately began showing his newly created pieces at Spanish Market’s youth division in 1997. He’s been fashioning art and showing pieces at Spanish Market going on 20 straight years.
The carved wooden altar screen that graces this year’s poster measures 5.5 feet high by 5.5 feet wide and was purchased by the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art last year. The retablo, which features many religious-based images, is now part of the museum’s collection. Otero’s ornately painted pieces grace the walls of churches, galleries and private collections.
Otero says that in addition to being chosen the poster artist last year (this award is made at one market for implementation the next), he took 80 pieces to the show and sold all of them. This year, the grade-school art teacher by day hopes to have at least 45 pieces ready for Spanish Market’s opening. “It’s gone well,” reflects Otero, who has often said that he’s been fortunate to study under many masters of Spanish colonial art. “I’ve been blessed. I don’t take it for granted.”
All Otero’s pieces feature carved wood — usually pine — natural pigments and gesso. He usually enters work in several categories: retablos, innovations within retablos, animal hide painting and the long lost art of ramilletes (pronounced rahme-yeh-tehs), which are paper flowers that once adorned altars and important documents. “There are very few of us who hide paint and make ramilletes,” he says.
The artist says that he occasionally creates projects in a more contemporary style, including a portrait of the late artist Frida Kahlo. Otero also teamed up with New Mexican icon Rudolfo Anaya to illustrate Anaya’s book How Hollyhocks Came to New Mexico.
Otero says that he’s recently been teaching his 5-year-old son, Xavier, how to paint but that the tyke still hasn’t shown an interest in santos. “He likes to paint fishermen and fish.”
For details on Nicolás Otero, visit nicolasotero.com.