Curiosities and a Handful of Heart…

On September 23, 2011, I visited the exhibits at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. The museum features about six galleries, each filled with interesting pieces of history. I was able to see these exhibits in conjunction with the New Mexico Oral History Forum.

The first gallery I visited was the North Gallery. Here there is an exhibit which runs from September 18, 2011 thru January 8, 2012 titled Hispanic Traditional Arts of New Mexico. This exhibit features pieces from the permanent collection of the museum. The art was breathtaking. I was particularly taken by the Art of the Santero. These traditional artists utilize various types of wood to create extravagant religious pieces such as retablos (flat paintings), bultos (3D carved imagery), and reredos (altar screens). This art is reminiscent of the Spanish Colonial period, but contemporary artists still make a prominent mark with this style. There were two pieces that I was anticipated photographing, however, I was sad to learn that photos were not allowed. There were two pieces in particular that I was struck by.

Cruz Lopez portrayed Our Lady of Sorrows in a way that brought a tear to my eye. Lopez was born in Espanola in 1974, and is one year older than I am. He currently lives in Chimayo, and depicted Our Lady of Sorrows in the most sorrowful way I have ever seen. The main church named after Our Lady in New Mexico is in Las Vegas. In my many years, I have seen many images of Our Lady of Sorrows. She has been depicted in tears, on her knees, and with many knives through her heart. Lopez opted to portray the most painful of all. In his bulto titled La Virgen Dolorosa (1997), Lopez has Our Lady holding her own bloody heart. She appears to be giving it to the viewer. Dolorosa is a Latin word meaning way of grief or way of suffering. She invites you into her eyes, and this artist actually made me aware of her intense pain. It was an amazing piece. The oil paints he used saturated the wood with lifelike quality. The paint was uniquely vivid. Lopez carved her out of cottonwood and pine. I think art that makes us feel something is so important. It is clear that this santero poured his soul into her.

Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Las Vegas, New Mexico by Harry Lake (ca 1900-1910)----------- Denver Public Library, Image No. L-495

There was another piece in this gallery that I loved. This piece was really one of many. Horacio Valdez created a scene with the famous death cart, and the lady of death herself. In his piece Dona Sebastana (La Muerte) from 1975, Valdez used carved cottonwood, aspen, and pine to make us believe that La Muerte was riding by with a cart full of sinners in the back. The carving was sitting on a high platform which was about five feet by ten feet long. The carving took up the entire space, and as far as I can remember may have been Cordova Style, which means it was not painted (but was naturally colored wood). Valdez was from Dixon, New Mexico, and died in 1992. This piece was kinda creepy (adored it), because the artist created a mixed media carving with raw hide and human hair. This made the carvings look really lifelike.

There were so many great photographs throughout the museum. There were great panoramic photos of Albuquerque right before, and right after New Mexico statehood (1912). These images were in the lobby and atrium. The East Gallery also housed images which were of interest to me. There was a Notable New Mexicans theme in that gallery. Georgia O’Keeffe (one of my favorites) was hanging there. Next to her beautiful black and white image (a side profile looking out her bedroom window), was this quote: “I know I cannot paint a flower. I know I cannot paint the sun or the desert on a bright summer morning, but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey my experience of the flower of significance to me at that particular time.” The photo was a 1956 silver gelatin print.

There was gallery that I will need to revisit when I have more time, and that was the Four Centuries History Gallery. I visited the gallery, however, I think I need more time to really take in the exhibits there. Some of the things that stood out to me on at quick glance… There was a brass bell from the AT&SF (Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe) Railway. The bell was a 20th century locomotive bell, and was very cool to see. In the “new town” section there was a demolition (dummy) bomb from 1943 (WWII era). The bomb was metal. There were also some war ration booklets, and a cast iron operating table. There was one item that was probably my absolute favorite in the museum. It was a 16th century writing box (of course) from Spain. The box was used to hold paper, ink, and pens, and was used as a table when needed. It was made of iron, wood, and cuir bouilli (boiled leather). Yes- even back then, people were habitual writers. I looked up the term cuir bouilli, and oddly enough this stuff was used as armor. For real- these writers (or scribes) didn’t mess around! They were going to protect the contents of their box by any means necessary. I can’t imagine transporting a huge box like that from place to place. It was a gorgeous piece, however, sometimes we gotta be grateful we live in the age of mobility!

Albuquerque Museum of Art and History

Explore posts in the same categories: Art, Artists, Edification, Exhibits, History, Museums, New Mexico

2 Comments on “Curiosities and a Handful of Heart…”

  1. Laura Lou Says:

    I am wondering if this is the same museum that Louie and I went to when we took el rail runner. Does it have brass sculptures outside? Downtown Abq?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: