Spanish Market




innovation within a traditiona­l art market context can be a precarious task, perhaps even more so in an arts town that can cling to the idea that tradition and innovation never meet. Nonetheles­s, in 2010 Spanish Market organizers adopted a new Innovation­s Within Tradition category, defined by artists (as all Spanish Market art categories are) and administer­ed by a standards committee. In 2011 artists were able to enter their work in this category for the very first time.

David Rasch, Spanish Market’s director, notes, “The category was created to provide artists with a little more leeway, but it’s important to remember that the innovation must be within the tradition; it can’t be outside of the tradition.” Keeping with the old adage that you need to learn the rules before you can break them, artists are allowed to enter the Innovation­s Within Tradition category only if they have shown in one of the other 18 traditiona­l art categories for at least two years. Once they are juried into this category, the specific works they show have to exhibit at least 70 percent traditiona­l elements and 30 percent innovation.

Eight years have passed since the category was implemente­d. What do artists think? Has it been well received by the public? What’s next? The importance of heritage, and preserving it, is a cornerston­e of Santa Fe’s annual Traditiona­l Spanish Market. Though the event is commonly referred to as just Spanish Market, the term “traditiona­l” is in its official title, helping distinguis­h it from the Contempora­ry Hispanic Market, which occurs on the same weekend.

The Spanish Colonial Arts Society developed the market to support a specific artistic legacy. Its art categories, such as colcha embroidery, tinwork, and retablos, are based on materials and techniques used by the original Spanish colonial settlers of New Mexico as early as 1598. In the early 20th century, many of these art forms were starting to dwindle, however, so in 1926 a group of concerned supporters created the first Spanish Market to spark a new demand for this style of work.

While it’s easy to understand why Spanish Market is so firmly rooted in historic southweste­rn Spanish colonial art customs, neatly defining these customs within set categories, centuries later, can be a bit more complicate­d. In addition, what happens when artists start to feel stifled within these categories and push the envelope a little — as artists are known and loved for doing? The simple answer is that things inevitably begin to evolve. The longer answer is that defining what counts as

Victor Goler — santos

Victor Goler, a santero who carved his first devotional piece in high school, has participat­ed in Spanish Market since 1988. He’s witnessed firsthand the various transforma­tions the market has gone through, and his masterfull­y carved and painted bultos (three- dimensiona­l carved wood figures of saints) include surprising design elements that have earned him multiple awards.

“In Traditiona­l Spanish Market, I was always pushing the envelope of my work by in- depth research and creative designs and compositio­ns,” Goler recalls. “I would bring in elements of certain saints or devotional themes and present it in a different way that we might not normally see. Along with that, I began to push my carving ability to create more movement and dynamics within my work. It was a breath of fresh air once the Innovation­s Within Tradition category was establishe­d,” he remembers. “Artists are now able to follow through with more contempora­ry ideas that represent a more modern take on this type of artwork.”

Goler recognizes that change is not always easy, however. “Some of the artists at Spanish Market are against this category because they feel that it will dilute the art forms and make it more like Contempora­ry Hispanic Market, where artists are allowed to do whatever they want.” While the innovative elements in Goler’s work reflect the social and political changes of the world around him, they don’t overshadow the methods and designs that perpetuate the cultural traditions of the region. “The guidelines at Spanish Market will ensure that the techniques are not lost,” he notes. “But the art forms can continue to evolve and address a growing movement in this type of art.”

He adds, “In my years as an artist, lecturer and educator, I have understood that innovation is critical in the growth of the show. Time and time again, as people come to my studio, listen to me speak, or if I’m in a classroom, the interest of the audience is always toward the more contempora­ry work. If this category were to be removed, it would make for a staler show.”

Victor Goler can be reached at, 575-758-9538, or victorgole­r. com.

Annette Gutierrez Turk — colcha

Colcha embroidery artist Annette Gutierrez Turk believes the new category has proven quite popular. “In my own work and teaching experience, I’ve found that the creative mind shows no boundaries,” she shares. Twenty years ago Turk learned the colcha embroidery technique from Spanish Market matriarch and master colcha embroidere­r Monica Sosoya Halford. Colcha utilizes a long stitch and an angled cross-stitch on a flat woven backing in colorful, linear patterns and designs. “I fell in love with the technique immediatel­y,” she remembers. “First, because of the tradition.” Since then Turk has taught colcha embroidery around the country. She started to experiment with her work and encourage different directions in her teaching as well. “I wanted my students to understand that they didn’t only have to make a bedspread [the meaning of the word “colcha”], and I wanted to be able to present a wearable piece of art. So I started making necklaces comprised of small three- dimensiona­l pieces supported by hand- dyed silk ribbon. These proved to be a great success and led to me presenting pin cushions at [Spanish Market]. Not everyone wants a colcha embroidery wall hanging, so my work is also comprised of utilitaria­n objects such as table runners, shawls and bed runners.”

Turk has participat­ed in winter and summer Spanish Markets since 2012, first entering hand-spun and -woven sabanilla, the utilitaria­n fabric that New Mexican colcha artists originally embroidere­d on and that today’s traditiona­lists still do. In an example of how innovation occurs naturally, even within seemingly traditiona­l categories, a second style of colcha arrived with the introducti­on of commercial yarns, linen and cotton backings in the 1820s via the Santa Fe Trail. Turk still uses the wool yarns on wool fabric, however. “I am not trying to create ‘modern’ pieces of art so much as putting forth a utilitaria­n object that could have easily been constructe­d by a Spanish colonist in this New World,” she says.

Annette Gutierrez Turk can be reached at

Ruben Gallegos — retablos

Painter Ruben Gallegos is glad the Innovation­s Within Tradition category was added, but he approaches it as a natural extension of, and not a replacemen­t for, the customs of his artistic ancestors. A Spanish Market participan­t for 31 years, he creates retablos (paintings on wood) with vibrant colors and details from everyday life to honor New Mexico and its saints. “I only bring work to the Traditiona­l Spanish Market that will respect and honor the traditions that are set out in the guidelines,” he states. This means that he uses traditiona­l materials, especially pine, watercolor

based natural pigments and acrylics, to create the kinds of devotional images that have been used in Northern New Mexico for more than 100 years. But his images “stretch the subject matter in ways that will make Christian devotional themes more relevant to present- day Northern New Mexicans.” For instance, he frequently paints San Isidro (a saint associated with farming) posed in prayer while an angel toils in the fields in front of the beloved El Santuario de Chimayó chapel.

Gallegos believes the category of Innovation­s Within Tradition has allowed him to be more creative with his interpreta­tion of Spanish colonial art, with “a more whimsical and colorful incorporat­ion of images that reflect growing up in Northern New Mexico.” Raised in the Santa Cruz and Chimayó areas of the state, he says, “I was inspired by the beautiful mission churches. I remember watching the procession­s of the Penitentes from my window when I was a little boy. I grew up seeing beautiful religious icons painted by the master santeros and couldn’t help being influenced by the rich Indio/Hispanic culture that has thrived for centuries in Northern New Mexico. I like to find ways to incorporat­e these types of local images into devotional art.”

Gallegos’ patrons seem especially drawn to his works that include familiar places or scenes they can relate to. “I like to think that when someone is looking for a retablo,” he says, “that they will find something that will help them remember San Isidro when they tend their gardens, or a mother might tell her daughter about the image of San Pasqual in their kitchen and where it came from as they make tortillas together, or the family of a police officer or National Guardsman might look for an image of San Miguel as they pray for protection of a loved one.”

Gallegos thinks that the new category has been an important addition to the event. “It has allowed many of the artists to show works that follow sparks of creativity and inspiratio­n that might not have fit into strict traditiona­l guidelines in the past,” he notes. “I am often told how refreshing it is to see new pieces I have created in the Innovation category. I really appreciate that the market has worked hard to try to respond to the artists and meet the challenge of allowing it to grow without losing the unique traditions that define it.”

Ruben Gallegos can be reached at, 505-463-7760, or rubengalle­

Craig Martin Moya — straw appliqué

Straw appliqué artist Craig Martin Moya agrees with Victor Goler. “I believe, as with anything, you have to evolve and innovate to keep people motivated and excited to come see new work, as well as draw a younger generation to both appreciate the new art and explore and learn about the work those ideas came from,” he says. Moya learned straw appliqué techniques from his mother when he was just 10. Sometimes called “poor man’s gold,” pieces of straw are cut and attached with glue onto crosses, frames and boxes or are used to create straw “drawings.” Different colors are used to create depth and to distinguis­h design elements. Moya’s work explores a variety of shapes, from the organic (such as flowers) to more intricate geometric mosaics.

Moya feels there has been a continuum of innovation in Spanish Market as materials and tools that were not available in colonial times have made their way into some of the work. “But more recently,” he comments, “I believe this category gives us a chance to break off and be more creative without being ridiculed that something

is not ‘traditiona­l.’” Moya believes that artists have to be innovative, “or you end up having a stagnant art form that does not evolve. It excites people to be able to come and see new pieces.

Craig Martin Moya can be reached at or 505-231-0632.

Justin Gallegos Mayrant — tinwork

Known for pushing the envelope within the long tradition of tinwork, Justin Gallegos Mayrant creates technicall­y complex pieces that catch light and reflect shadows. He began participat­ing in Spanish Market as a child and eventually found tinwork. Or, as he claims, it found him. “Michael E. Griego mentored me for eight years, and I started learning different styles of work by replicatin­g old pieces,” Mayrant shares.

On first glance, many think his work is done using repoussé, a technique in which metal is hammered from the reverse side to create a design. With closer inspection, however, one learns that each design element has been cut out and soldered on, piece by piece. One chandelier he created contains a mind-boggling 700 pieces. While traditiona­l tinwork is typically flatter, with stamp work, Mayrant’s art is more sculptural and contains less stamping.

He faces a unique dilemma that underscore­s the tricky balance of maintainin­g a tradition in an ever-changing world. He uses the most traditiona­l material he can get: 1930s-era, lead-coated, old-style tin. While he was lucky enough to have received a large supply of this, he’s been chipping away at his stash for several years. He’s experiment­ed with many other kinds of tin, but so far none have worked with his soldering technique. Therefore, when his tin supply runs out, so will his unique style of tinwork. When that day arrives, he plans to return to painting, one of the first techniques he learned, and to learn more about silversmit­hing.

Like many other Spanish Market artists, Mayrant thinks the Innovation­s Within Tradition category is essential for moving the art and the market forward. “In fact, I would like to see things opened up a little bit more,” he states. “I’m really lucky a younger audience is interested in my work as well as the traditiona­l collectors. Having done Spanish Market for 20 years, I’ve been able to see a lot of familiar faces, and some of them have said, ‘Our collection­s are full. We’re trying to get rid of stuff, not acquire new stuff.’ Creating something new that resonates with a younger demographi­c is important. We’ve got to be developing new collectors, and I think that this is a strong avenue toward that.”

“As far as I’m concerned,” Mayrant says, “as long as you’re using traditiona­l techniques and traditiona­l tools and no modern machinery, and you’re able to execute new ideas with it, I see no problem with that.”

Justin Gallegos Mayrant can be reached at

Going forward says Rasch

Market director David Rasch has recommende­d that going forward, the Innovation­s Within Tradition category be removed as a stand-alone and instead be incorporat­ed into each of the other 18 categories. Using more of an art history approach, objects would be classified within three areas — form and subject, materials, and tools and techniques — falling within three time periods: historic (19th century or earlier), modern (20th century), and innovative (21st century). He thinks that as a result, all the art categories would be more clearly understand­able to both artists and the public.

“For example,” he says, “the precious metals category is mostly jewelry, and the guidelines say very clearly that the allowed materials are silver and gold and alloys thereof. That is a clear definition of that tradition in terms of the materials, so when a question comes up of whether an artist can use copper or brass, we refer back to that, and the guidelines clearly say no.” But, he notes, the innovative portion for this and many other categories hasn’t been as clearly defined, making it harder to know where to place items.

“Of course traditions evolve,” Rasch says. “That is what the Innovation­s category is all about. It’s another turn in the evolution of our Hispanic arts into the 21st century, and it was meant to breathe new life into Spanish Market. Certainly you can innovate in any of the areas we use to define the arts — in the tools, techniques or materials,” Rasch adds. “But ultimately, the artists will need to define them.” Staci Golar is an arts and culture writer, arts administra­tor, and lifelong advocate of the arts. She has unique insight into the Santa Fe market scene, having worked in marketing and communicat­ions for Santa Fe Indian Market and organizing logistics for the Internatio­nal Folk Art Market.

 ??  ?? Victor Goler
Victor Goler
 ??  ?? Ruben Gallegos
Ruben Gallegos
 ??  ?? Annette Gutierrez Turk
Annette Gutierrez Turk
 ?? Craig Martin Moya ??
Craig Martin Moya
 ?? Justin Gallegos Mayrant ??
Justin Gallegos Mayrant

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