Northern New Mexico Devotional Show on Exhibit at Highlands University 

Traditional retablo: "Jesus and the Samaritan Woman," Adrian Montoya

Retablo: “Jesus and the Samaritan Woman,” Adrian Montoya

March 16, 2022

The annual Northern New Mexico Devotional Show is now on exhibit at the Highlands University Ray Drew Gallery through April 18. An opening reception is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, March 18. Masks and social distancing will be encouraged.  

The exhibition features 26 different pieces by seven artists from Northern New Mexico, including Adrian Montoya, Cindee Ulibarri, Margarito Mondragon, ArraZolo, Julia Lucero, Phyllis Martinez, Irene Brandtner de Martínez, and work from the Donnelly Collection by Cruz & Geraldine Flores, Peter Lopez, and Richard Rivera. The artists are from Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and San Miguel and Mora counties. Art will be available for purchase directly from each artist. 

Karlene Gonzales, the administrative and gallery assistant for Ray Drew Gallery, said the exhibition is popular due to its focus on spiritual and religious themes. The work is broadly considered to be folk art, and according to Gonzales, some of the artists have chosen to work with traditional materials like natural pigments and glue made from rabbit skin, and others have used acrylic paints to achieve a more contemporary style. The exhibition features both retablos and bultos, or three-dimensional wooden sculptures, of saints and other religious icons.  

“A lot of this type of art came from early Spanish colonial days,” said Gonzales.  “This type of art was created for churches or personal altars but ultimately it is motivated by the spiritual energy of its creator. Devotional art has survived through the history of our area and others.”  

In one mixed-media piece titled “Confia” by Julia Lucero, a cross assembled from found metals is mounted on a wooden plaque. In another piece, titled “Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe,” by Phyllis Martinez, la Virgen de Guadalupe is rendered in three dimensions from wood. The aureole is unpainted, but la Virgen and the angel holding her up are painted in bright colors.  

Gonzales said one of her favorite pieces in the show is “Our Lady of Refuge and Archangels,” a retablo in triptych by Irene Brandtner de Martínez.  

“The thing I really like about a lot of this art, is the brilliant colors, and the way a lot of the artists depict the eyes of their subjects in their art,” said Gonzales. “Those eyes are just captivating. And it’s not just one artist, it’s most of them.”  

Gonzales said that many of the artists in the exhibition have shown their work in the Spanish Market, a prestigious art show held in Santa Fe each year.  

We are fortunate enough to be in the midst of this art because of the vast amount of practicing Devotional artists in Northern New Mexico,” said Gonzales.