Spanish Market poster artist
Frank Zamora’s Holy Family reflects cultural dimensions
Frank Zamora, the artist whose La Familia Sagrada (The Holy Family) adorns the 2018 Traditional Spanish Market poster, says that although he has lived all his life near Denver, the Spanish colonial culture of New Mexico has always been part of his life. It was his father’s side of the family, which migrated from Mexico to northern Colorado, that became steeped in the centuries-old traditions of Northern New Mexico and parts of southern Colorado.
“My knowledge of New Mexico was through my father’s Mexican heritage,” says Zamora, who has lived his whole 59 years in Commerce City, Colorado. “My grandfather was an hermano [Penitente] at a morada in northern Colorado, so I knew all about retablos and bultos and the cultural things of New Mexico. But on my mother’s side, which came from Tierra Amarilla, they didn’t want us to speak Spanish.”
Spanish is an integral part of Zamora’s life, however. He knew he wanted to create cultural pieces as soon as he finished high school and started making “Chicano art,” which he began exhibiting in the 1970s. “I’ve always been culturally oriented in what I make,” he says. Since he began entering Traditional Spanish Market more than a decade ago, Zamora has totally shifted his talents toward woodcarving, making retablos and animal hide painting.
Retablo de la Familia Sagrada is fashioned out of pine, homemade gesso and naturally created pigments, all of which he gathers on his many journeys into the Land of Enchantment. His homemade trementina (varnish) is created from piñon tree sap collected in the Tesuque area. “[The piece] took me about two months to make. I really took my time on that one,” Zamora says. Besides the Poster Award, which is his second in that category, the piece also won the Museum Purchase Award. It is now in the collection of the Spanish Colonial Arts Museum in Santa Fe.
Zamora also likes to carve cottonwood root, which he collects with his brother from toppled trees on journeys through the Platte River Valley in Colorado. His brother, who is not an artist, takes his share of the root to Zuni Pueblo, where he trades it for katsina dolls, which are traditionally made from the material. Zamora also mentors his brother’s children, Dominic, 14, and Gabriella, 9, in Spanish colonial art and sponsors them at Spanish Youth Market.
“I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to make some money off this [traditional art],” says Zamora, who now works full-time as an artist. “Art is really selling now in the Denver area.”