ARROYO HONDO CARVER
(active c. 1830–c. 1850)
was an important sculptor of religious folk images in northern New Mexico. His name derives from the large number of his works found in the village of Arroyo Hondo,north of Taos. His
(polychrome wood figures of important saints and holy persons) were made for the local church and for lay brotherhood meeting houses
in Arroyo Hondo, the nearby towns of Questa, Arroyo Seco, and Valdez, and for a private family chapel in Arroyo Hondo. The identity of this artist is notknown, but he was probably an Arroyo Hondo resident who ceased working in the 1850s, and whose name had been forgotten by the time field research was done inthe 1940s. His work can be dated to the first half of the nineteenth century through his use of hand-adzed wood, which was not used until after 1850, for bases andniches of statues rather than milled lumber, and his use of locally made water-based tempera paints rather than the commercial oils and enamels favored by later artists.The carver’s brightly painted pieces are characterized by static frontal poses, the bodies often relieved from heaviness by simple grooved lines running their length toindicate flowing robes. The faces are symmetrical and sharply carved, with distinctive clamshell ears and pointed chins and noses. They have an expressionless quality, placing them beyond the realm of human sentimentality and evoking the spirituality of medieval Christian sculpture. Most of the sculpture done at this time in NewMexico, such as the work of José Rafael Aragón and the Santo Niño Santero, is characterized by a simplified naturalism, reflecting the academic art of the day. In contrast, the work of the Arroyo Hondo Carver is the first to move away from this aesthetic to achieve a more abstract and transcendent spirituality. The abstracted work of this artist provides a transition to that of the late nineteenth century, but unlike some of the later sculptors, whose work is often awkward and rigid, the Arroyo Hondo Carver’s pieces are graceful and appealing. It is likely that Juan Miguel Herrera, a later sculptor from Arroyo Hondo, learned to carve with the Arroyo Hondo Carver.
José Rafael Aragón; Bultos; Juan Miguel Herrera; Religious Folk Art; Retablos; Santeros;
Santo Niño Santero; Sculpture, Folk
Shalkop, Robert L.
Arroyo Hondo: The Folk Art of a New Mexican Village.
Colorado Springs, Colo., 1969.Wroth, William.
Christian Images in Hispanic New Mexico: The Taylor Museum Collection of Santos.
Colorado Springs, Colo., 1982