David Alvarez


discovered his talent as an animal woodcarver under the tutelage of Felipe Archuleta, the acknowledged master of the form. He then developed a unique style that has placed him among the finest of New Mexico’s celebrated creators of folk art animals. Alvarez was raised in West Oakland, California, but moved to Santa Fe, NewMexico, at the suggestion of a friend, in the mid-1970s. In 1976 the same friend introduced Alvarez to Archuleta, who was then enjoying newfound success as thefather of an original woodcarving style. Archuleta’s roughly carved and painted representations of domestic and wild animals had thrust him into the limelight ininternational folk art circles, and the demand for his work had skyrocketed. Unable to keep up with his orders, Archuleta took on a number of apprentices, includingAlvarez.Alvarez had no prior artistic experience, but immediately upon entering Archuleta’s Tesuque, New Mexico, workshop he assumed important artistic duties. His firstassignment was to paint a large, fantailed turkey that Archuleta had carved by hand. With no instruction from Archuleta, Alvarez looked to the master’s examples:large, often life-size, cottonwood images of tigers, bears, lions, zebras, giraffes, and other exotic animals, as well as fish, snakes, dogs, and everyday house pets. Thesewere commonly depicted by Archuleta in menacing poses, wearing colorful coats of latex house paint, with toothpicks for teeth, nails for claws, and marble eyes.Despite intense criticism by Archuleta, Alvarez patiently endured the pressures of learning, contributing carved or painted details to Archuleta’s works.As Alvarez’s techniques improved, and he began carving his own creations, his unique style and expression began to emerge. The result is an eclectic animalmenagerie—including armadillos, raccoons, sows, and piglets—characterized by soft, endearing, and humorous representations, as opposed to Archuleta’s moreaggressive pets. Even in Alvarez’s popular “killer pig” creations, in which the animal’s rigid posture and bared teeth and tongue create an illusion of aggression, theanimal’s charm shines through. Alvarez refined his distinctive talents and artistic touches through hundreds of signature works, though he rarely innovated or departeddrastically from what he learned from Archuleta.Alvarez’s years with Archuleta established him as an accomplished animal carver, creating a demand for his work from private collectors, tourist shops, galleries, andmuseums. Indeed, for many animal collectors, Alvarez’s works became the preferred carving style. By the mid-1980s, Alvarez had left Archuleta’s workshop toestablish his own in Santa Fe. He continues to carve and sell his works in local folk art shops and to private collectors.
See also

Felipe Archuleta; Sculpture, Folk
Mather, C., and D.Mather.
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! New Mexican Folk Carvings from the Collection of Christine and Davis Mather.
Corpus Christi,Tex., 1986.Museum of American Folk Art.
Ape to Zebra, A Menagerie of New Mexican Woodcarvings: The Animal Carnival Collection of the Museum of American Folk Art.
New York; 1985.