The Artistic Heritage and Culture of Chimayó, New MexicoFor over 400 years artisans have upheld a tradition of Chimayó art that speaks to the rich tapestry of story and craft in the community.
Weaving Tradition in ChimayóThe utilitarian craft of weaving introduced by Spanish colonial settlers in the 1700s has been transformed by time and talent into today's rich combination of time-honored symbols with modern aesthetic and techniques. Multi-generational workshops produce stunning tapestries, including those of award-winning artisans Irvin Trujillo of Centinela Traditional Arts, Robert Ortega of Ortega's Weaving Shop, and Karen Martinez and Carlos Martinez.
Chimayó's weavers rely on locally available wool and cotton yarns. The wool is gathered from a local breed of heritage Churro sheep, whose undyed wools display a stunning variation of ecru, cream, brown and black. Many natural plant dyes are used to expand the color palette to include the desert hues of the New Mexico landscape and sky.
Chimayó ArtisansChimayosos work in local woods, carving rustic, Spanish colonial-style furniture and devotional artwork. Many of these artisans, whose woodcraft has been passed down from grandfather to father to son, create santos and bultos (three-dimensional statues of saints) and retablos (devotional paintings on wood) as striking evidence of the importance of spirituality in Chimayó history and life. Other artists perfect the folk art of straw applique, also called straw inlay, which is exceptionally inlaid on wooden crosses and nativity scenes.
Modern techniques and materials have also found their way into Chimayó art. Many local art galleries showcase Spanish Colonial tinwork, which involves painstakingly hand-punching geometric, floral and religious designs into metal for mirror and picture frames or light fixtures. Oviedo Carvings and Bronze, owned by Marco and Patricia Trujillo, uses the lost wax process in a bronze foundry that produces magnificent, contemporary sculpture.
Of course, Chimayó art also honors its pre-Spanish artistic heritage. Several local art galleries feature both traditional and contemporary local Native American art, including the jewelry, pottery and rugs of the nearby Santa Clara, Pojoaque, Zuni, Jemez, Cochiti and Ohkay Owinge Pueblos, as well as from the more distant Navajo Nation and Acoma Pueblo.
Some local art galleries and studio spaces offer workshops, demonstrations and tours for anyone wanting to know more about how to paint a retablo, spin or weave Churro wool, or photograph the magnificent local landscapes. To learn more, inquire at the Hotel Chimayó de Santa Fe concierge desk.
Chimayó Suggested Reading and References
- New Mexico Fiber Arts Trail -- www.nmfiberarts.org/, a project of the New Mexico Department of Tourism
- The Chimayo Weavers -- www.chimayoweavers.com/
- The Centinela Weavers of Chimayo by Mary Terence McKay & Lisa Trujillo
- Ortega's Weaving Shop -- www.ortegasweaving.com/
- Oviedo Carvings and Bronze -- www.oviedoart.com/
- Across Frontiers: Hispanic Crafts of New Mexico by Dexter Cirillo
- New Mexican Tinwork: 1840-1940 by Lane Coulter and Maurice Dixon, Jr.