ARCHULETA, FELIPE BENITO
produced innovative carvings that reflect his strong personality as well as the
(or holy figure) woodcarving tradition. He is credited with creating a secular art formas a carver of animal figures and gave new direction to more than a dozen younger carvers. Less well-known are his drawings.Born in Santa Cruz, New Mexico, the eldest of six children, Archuleta worked from his early childhood to help support his family. He was employed as a migrantworker picking potatoes,
and fruit; he did farm chores for less than a dollar a day; and in 1935 he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps as a laborer, later becoming an office orderly. He later worked for the Works Progress Administration as a stonemason, and as a hotel cook. At age thirty-five, he joined the UnitedBrotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, and worked as a carpenter for twenty-four years.In 1964, Archuleta was virtually unemployed, and he prayed for guidance. In an interview with collector and dealer Davis Mather, Archuleta recalled, “I asked Godfor some kind of miracle, some kind of a thing to do, to give me something to make my life with. I started carving and they just come out of my mind after that.”Archuleta’s early works were small; his subjects were
wagons with oxen and driver, sheep, and snakes. During the 1970s he began to make larger pieces,some life-size. The favorable response his work received encouraged him to expand his menagerie of subjects to include figures of coyotes, pigs, and birds, as well asexotic animals, such as gorillas, lions, tigers, and rhinoceroses. Children’s books, magazines such as
and other sources were used as referencematerial, but Archuleta always individualized each animal figure. The artist created hundreds of works using local cottonwood; his basic tools were a chain saw, ax,chisel, rasp, knife, and sandpaper. He would begin each work using a chain saw, to rough out the general shape, and next he used a pocketknife to create the finedetails. He carved larger animals in more than one piece, using a glue and sawdust mixture to fill in crevices, build up forms, and create texture. He added realisticdetails,such as eyes and teeth, with baling wire, telephone cable, glass marbles, and sisal. He sanded his figures before finally painting them.To meet the demand for his carvings, which were popular with dealers and collectors, he worked with his son Leroy, and his grandson Ron Rodriguez, as well asAlonzo Jimenez, and David Alvarez. All became independent carvers and established reputations of their own. In 1979, Felipe Archuleta, master carver and guidingspirit of the younger New Mexican animal carvers, was given the governor of New Mexico’s Award of Excellence and Achievement in the Arts.
David Alvarez; Leroy Ramon Archuleta;
Religious Folk Art; 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.Mather, Davis. “Felipe Archuleta, Folk Artist.”
(summer 1977): 18–20.Museum of American Folk Art.
Ape to Zebra: A Menagerie of New Mexican Woodcarvings: The Animal Carving Collection of the Museum of American Folk Art.
New York, 1986.Rosenak, Chuck, and Jan Rosenak.
Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of American Folk Art and Artists.
New York, 1990