2023-05-29Johnny Ortiz

“I planted that tree which you know is straight and full of life”.

I first learned of Patrociño Barela’s work when seeing a large collection of his at the Harwood Museum in Taos. Patriciño Barela born around 1900, was raised as a sheep herder, a laborer, a wanderer due to work and immigration in his early life, but innately he was an artist and a santero. In New Mexico, a santero is someone who carves saints and spiritual figures primarily out of red cedar wood. Patrociño would describe his work as “santo feeling” not strictly santo santo as the catholic New Mexican histories would say. 


When I first came upon his work, his figures struck me so much - like a punch in the stomach - the faces and movement carved in the wood reminded me of susto, the sou...

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