Of wood and spirit

Peñasco woodcarvers prepare traditional works for Santa Fe Spanish Market

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The 67th annual Traditional Spanish Market takes place this year on Santa Fe Plaza Saturday and Sunday (July 28-29), from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day. Approximately 250 artists from New Mexico and Colorado are juried into this marketplace, bringing together the finest traditional artisans working in the categories of woodcarving, tinwork, retablos, straw appliqué, furniture and furnishings, and jewelry along with other art forms.

For over 15 years, Andrew and Lorrie Garcia of Peñasco have been participating in the annual Spanish Market. Andrew Garcia creates chip-carved furniture and furnishings while Lorrie makes retablos and bultos (both are commonly referred to as santos, representations of Catholic saints and religious figures, respectively, as wooden tablets or sculptures).

"We think of Spanish Market as our family," Lorrie Garcia said. "Most of us share, encourage, teach and learn from each other."

Along with her traditional bultos and retablos, at this year's market Lorrie will be exhibiting retablos in a new whimsical format of santos painted onto pottery vessel shapes with images of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, an Algonquin-Mohawk laywoman who was canonized in 2012.

Lorrie described how Spanish Market has changed and adapted to new ideas, saying, "each category in market has guidelines, and there is a standards committee in place making sure that artists adhere to those guidelines. This helps to keep all the art forms authentic. A few years ago a new category called 'Innovations within the Tradition' began. Most artists who have juried into this new category are having fun being creative while still using all the traditional media to interpret work in an innovative manner. I am working on retablos that are painted on wood shaped like objects associated with the santo. For example, I've painted San Pasqual on wood shaped like a spatula or spoon, or San Isidro on a shovel. These were not allowed at market until I juried into 'Innovations.' "

Andrew Garcia found inspiration from the old Works Progress Administration carved furniture still found today in Northern New Mexico, much of which remains in use throughout the school systems here in Taos County. Lorrie found her inspiration in the little churches along the high road to Taos.

"There's a lot of planning involved for both of us before we physically start working on a project," Lorrie said. "Choosing the materials is a big part of what we both do. Andrew is careful to choose the best quality ponderosa pine lumber he has been harvesting, milling,and drying for years. Andrew's work requires a lot of premeasurements, and then a lot of measuring in laying out the designs for carving. My work is a little bit more free flowing, which is good because I don't like to measure. I never start until I have a visual image in my mind before I start carving. I like my bultos to develop their personality as I go along. I sketch small retablos right on my gessoed boards, but I do detailed sketches for large retablos in order to get a good composition."

Andrew and Lorrie Garcia inspire each other to do their best work. Surrounded by angels, they live and work in the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Northern New Mexico where a type of spiritual magic happens between them.

They each describe their working process as a form of meditation and prayer. The Garcias were formerly both well-loved school teachers in the Peñasco school system.

"I'll never get over feeling blessed to be able to do the type of work that we do, and I know Andrew feels the same," said Lorrie Garcia. "I remember telling my students that everyone has special gifts, and we should find out what those gifts are and develop them. Until we retired from our teaching careers in 2001, neither one of us ever imagined that our gift was creating artwork. The work has been rewarding on so many levels, and I suppose we both feel that we are leaving something of ourselves for future generations. My artwork is spiritual by nature, and I always try to create pieces that speak to a person's spirituality. Both Andrew and I feel that our work is very much an extension of who we are as individuals and as a couple. Our work reflects our personality, our faith and our work ethic."

Andrew Garcia recently completed a commission for the new Presbyterian Hospital in Santa Fe scheduled to open in October. After seeing his work at Spanish Market last year, an employee of the hospital's design firm asked Andrew Garcia to create an altar, a lecturn, a tabernacle and entry doors for a nondenominational chapel. "We receive a lot of commissioned work from the shows, but we also like to do artwork that we are inspired to do," he said.

This year 12 Taos area artists are included in Santa Fe's Spanish Market. They are Daniel Barela, Luis Barela, Matthew R. Cordova, Gustavo Victor Goler, Carlos A. Rael, Richard Prudencio, Bernadette Pino, Daniel Rael, Leonardo Gregorio Salazar and Frank Salazar.

Through the years the Garcias have also shown at the annual Spanish Winter Market, the High Road Studio Tour and at Taos Fall Arts.

At Spanish Market 2018, the Garcias will occupy booths 59 and 60 at the corner of San Francisco and Lincoln Street. The Spanish Colonial Arts Society provides a calendar of events at spanishcolonial.org. To contact the artists directly, call Lorrie Garcia (575) 779-1723 or Andrew Garcia at (505) 423-4855 or visit them at 1325 State Road 75 in Peñasco.

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