outstanding examples of Santos were photographed at a recent exhibit
at the Loveland Museum/Gallery, in Loveland, Colorado.
The exhibit represented the work of a number of contemporary artists,
as well as some historical examples.
are painted or carved religious images that portray God, the Virgin
Mary, the angels and the saints. The images, which had their origins
in Medieval Europe, were brought to the Americas around four hundred
years ago by explorers from Spain, Portugal, and Europe.
the late 17th century, the tradition of the Santos art form was further
expanded as distinctive regional styles and subjects developed throughout
New Mexico, Central America, South America, the Philippines and other
regions of the new world where Spanish or Portuguese influence spread.
Santos are created in two art forms: retablos, which are images of saints
painted on flat pieces of wood and bultos, which are three-dimensional
representations of religious figures that are carved and sometimes painted.
They were displayed on the walls of churches and moradas and in private
retablo panels were traditionally crafted from local woods, such as
pine. After a panel was cut and shaped, gesso made from gypsum was applied.
After the gesso dried, images were painted, using natural pigments made
from plants, minerals, insects, and ochres. Brushes were made from yucca
fibers, horse hair and human hair. The retablo was then sealed with
a native resin varnish, such as the sap from a piñón tree.
Before pine panels became widely used, retablos were painted on buffalo,
deer, and elk hides.
were traditionally carved from indigenous woods, such as cottonwood
roots, aspen or pine, then gessoed, painted and sealed with the piñón
sap varnish. Today, oil or acrylic paints, as well as manufactured varnishes
are also used.
santeros and santeras have been self-taught, but some have learned their
skills as apprentices to masters. Santeros and santeras consider their
work on retablos and bultos to be an act of devotion.