Contemporary Hispanic Market A horse of another color By Arnold Vigil
Alex Chavez Poster Artist
Many who venture downtown on Spanish Market weekend know that nearby there exists a riveting contrast to the highly traditional Spanish colonial art on full display throughout the Plaza. This “alternate” event, known as Contemporary Hispanic Market, offers an additional 134 or so booths, which line both sides of Lincoln Avenue and display the works of those who take a more modern approach to Hispanic art.
This year’s Contemporary Hispanic Market takes place on Saturday and Sunday, July 27 and 28, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The artist categories include ceramics, fiber, precious and nonprecious jewelry, glass, metalwork, mixed media, watercolor, oils and acrylics, photography, sculpture, furniture, woodworking, printmaking, drawings and pastels. Alex Chavez of Taos is representative of the talented artists showing at the event. He grew up in Los Angeles, but his mother is originally from Valdez, a small village near Taos. She followed her older brother to the coast, where she eventually met Chavez’s father, who also had artistic talent but never pursued it professionally. “He usually gave away everything he made,” says Chavez, who adds that his father mainly liked to draw and create metal artwork. “There are a few pieces that me and my sister still have. I inherited his talent.”
When Chavez was a second-grader, his teacher would have him outline a picture on the blackboard with chalk. The rest of the class would then color in the scene with colored chalk right behind him. “It was like a coloring book,” Chavez laughs. The budding artist eventually graduated from California State University-Fullerton with a fine arts degree.
In 1997 Chavez and his wife and two sons bought some land and moved to Taos, where he dabbled in acrylics, watercolors and digital art before settling on oil as his primary medium of painting. “Oil is the most challenging thing,” he says. “It’s a whole different animal!” And loosely imitating his second-grade self, the artist likes to take a digital picture of a project once it’s started. Then he digitally experiments on it with different colors before deciding on a final concept.
He first juried into Contemporary Hispanic Market in 2008 but took a five-year hiatus after 2013, when a lot was happening in his life, including moves back to California to care for elderly relatives, then relocation to Albuquerque and Santa Fe before finally coming back to Taos.
This year, Chavez won Contemporary Hispanic Market’s Poster Artist Award for his oil painting Opal. The painting is also depicted on a banner hanging from a light post in Taos as part of an extensive art installation featuring 60 artists. “I’m right there on Kit Carson [Road],” he beams. “I got a lot of exposure from that image. I’m very grateful!” Chavez says that he still owns Opal and has purposefully kept it out of the public eye until this year’s market, where he will put the 12-by-12-inch oil painting on a wood panel up for sale.
The artist shows his work at KEEP Contemporary in Santa Fe and NuEvolution and Santisima in Albuquerque; visit alexchavezartist.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 575-779-7247.
Veteran Judy Ortiz
Judy Ortiz is one of the longest-running participants in Contemporary Hispanic Market and she vows to make this year — her 30th — the last. The 71-year-old impressionist painter, who grew up in Santa Fe near Griffin and Staab streets, says that it’s time for her to step aside and make room for the younger generations of artistas.
“This will be my last year; I’m done!” she says. “I am 71 years old. ¡Ya basta! There’s a need to make room for the new artists.”
That’s unfortunate because just a casual look at Ortiz’s oil work leaves quite the positive impression. Ortiz says she hasn’t painted with a brush in decades and prefers the colorful strokes created by a palette knife and a brayer. She liked to draw as a teenager and took art lessons in her 20s from a local artist named Carole Whitmore. Since then her career has gone full circle, including a 15-year period
when she owned a gallery on Canyon Road. “I really miss it, but the rents got to be too much,” Ortiz says.
She also served 17 years as publicity coordinator for Contemporary Hispanic Market, which she first entered in 1988. She showed at the market for almost 30 years straight, missing only one because she was late getting her paperwork in. Today she sells her work at a shop in the Design Center, 418 Cerrillos Road, #3. You can also view her striking work at pbase.com/chardhawk/judy_ortiz_gallery.
Ortiz’s brother, Albert Jaramillo, was one of the pioneering artists at the first Contemporary Hispanic Market, 33 years ago, when he showed a couch he had fashioned out of the front end of a Cadillac. Ortiz is very proud of her granddaughter Simona Rael, an 18-yearold who has participated for multiple years in the youth section of Spanish Market and will be attending the Institute of American Indian Arts. Ortiz’s son, Robb Rael, has shown at Contemporary Hispanic Market for 16 years. “We’re a family of artists,” Ortiz says.
Robb Rael’s “Raelism”
Robb Rael, who has also served on the Contemporary Hispanic Market board of directors, says he’s been painting for the past 20 years, mostly by “trial and error.” He says his mother has always encouraged him and that he started in watercolor and now paints exclusively in gouache, which affords more vibrant colors. He describes his style as “raelism.”
Indeed, his whimsical “raelistic” works can be seen publicly: a piece above the bar at Plaza Café Southside, a mural in the children’s room at the Santa Fe Ronald McDonald House and a work in aerosol at the Santa Fe Brewing Company on NM 14. “I hadn’t done aerosol in 30 years,” laughs Rael, who was born in Santa Monica, California, but has lived in Santa Fe since the first grade.
The 48-year-old Rael says that Contemporary Hispanic Market certainly has evolved and that today there are a lot more young artists, especially those who use aerosol as a medium and depict skeletons and Day of the Dead themes. “There aren’t as many religious pieces,” he notes. For a look at Rael’s impressive work, visit fineartamerica. com/profiles/robb-rael.html.
For more information on this fascinating, colorful annual event, visit contemporaryhispanicmarketinc.com. Arnold Vigil is a native of Santa Fe. His work has appeared in the “Santa Fe New Mexican,” the “Albuquerque Journal,” “La Herencia,” “New Mexico Magazine” and “Land Water People Time,” among many other publications. Later this year, the Museum of New Mexico Press will release a book compilation of his “¡Órale! Santa Fe” newspaper columns, which appeared for five years in the “Albuquerque Journal North.”