Encyclopedia of American Folk Art

By Gerard C.Wertkin; Lee Kogan | Go to book overview

L

L.W.CUSHING & SONS:

SEE CUSHING & WHITE.


LAGUNA SANTERO, THE (working dates c. 1795-c. 1808)

was the most important religious folk artist working in New Mexico at the beginning of the nineteenth century. During a limited period of time, the Laguna Santero and his workshop produced a considerable body of work in several media. Altar screens, panel paintings, hide paintings, gesso low reliefs, decorative shrine niches, and most likely sculpture were all produced by him or under his direction in his workshop. His most important and ambitious productions were a series of large altar screens undertaken in churches in Indian pueblos and Hispanic towns. In addition to that of the Laguna Pueblo church (c. 1800-1808), altar screens in the following churches are attributed to him: Santa Cruz de la Canada (c. 1795); San Francisco and San Miguel in Santa Fe (c. 1796 and c. 1798); Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Pojoaque (c. 1796-1800); Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Zia Pueblo (c. 1798); Santa Ana Pueblo (c. 1798); and San Esteban in Acoma Pueblo (c. 1802-1808).

The Laguna Santero was probably a Mexican artist engaged by priests or well-to-do patrons to carry out a series of commissions in New Mexican churches. His work is clearly based upon Mexican provincial sources. The saints and their attributes are accurately depicted, and his compositions derive directly from colonial paintings and engravings. He was also responsible for building the altar screens, most of which have hand-carved, twisted Solomonic columns (curvilinear Baroque design said to derive from the Temple of Solomon) delineating the sections, a characteristic of seventeenth- and early eighteenth century Mexican altars. The complex decorative painting of the columns replicates in a simpler fashion the elaborately carved and gilded Baroque altars of Mexico.

Although drawing from Mexican sources, the figurative work of this artist highly simplifies the Baroque naturalistic conventions of the day. Costumes are stylized and weightless, the faces of the saints have an ascetic quality quite removed from the prevailing sentimentalism of the Baroque style, and the backgrounds are emblematic, with little concern for perspective. The Laguna Santero can be viewed as the first New Mexican folk artist, a transitional figure between the provincial Baroque work of the eighteenth century and the pure folk art styles that emerged in the nineteenth century.

It appears that after completing the Laguna altar screen in 1808, he ceased painting in New Mexico. No later works have been identified. The production of smaller pieces by members of his workshop did not continue long after this date. One possible exception is the work of the artist Molleno (active c. 1815-c. 1845), who was probably an apprentice in the Laguna Santero's workshop.

See also Bultos; Molleno; Painting, American Folk; Religious Folk Art; Retablos; Santeros; Sculpture, Folk.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Boyd, E. Popular Arts of Spanish New Mexico. Santa Fe, N. Mex., 1974.
Wroth, William. Christian Images in Hispanic New Mexico: The Taylor Museum Collection of Santos. Colorado Springs, Colo., 1982.

WILLIAM WROTH


LANDSCAPE PAINTING:

SEE PAINTING, LANDSCAPE.


LATVIAN AMERICAN FOLK ART:

SEE EASTERN EUROPEAN AMERICAN FOLK ART.

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