An Introduction to the Traditional Forms of Spanish Colonial Art

The Spanish Colonial Arts are art forms that evolved from the presence of the Spanish Colonial conquistadors and settlers in the New Mexico region via Mexico in the 1600’s.

The forms all share four qualities:

  • A utilitarian yet beautiful sensibility
  • The influence of surrounding cultures
  • Materials that reflect the landscape
  • A strong sense of faith

Today many talented Hispanic artists create extraordinary work using traditional methods and materials.  The Spanish Colonial Arts Society supports their work through education, promotion and of course through the Annual Traditional Spanish Market, a rare opportunity to meet with the artists and see a cross-section of some of the finest contemporary Spanish Colonial artisan’s works being produced in the world.

Here is an introductory list of those art forms:

► Altar Screens:  A framed assemblage of several retablos, usually depicting a series of saints and imagery to tell a specific story, often designed for a specific religious location.

► Basketry:  A recently recognized revival artform that uses locally found willow branches to weave utilitarian and decorative baskets.

► Bonework: Anillos (rings) and tool handles carved from bones.

► Bultos en Nichos:  Wood bultos (painted or unpainted) presented in open or closed housings, referred to as “nichos.”

► Colcha:  Unique regional embroideries using the “colcha” stitch and hand-spun wool yarns dyed using natural regional materials.  The stitch is presented on handwoven wool “sabanilla” cloth.

► Copper Engraved Prints

► Furniture: Usually made from regionally found pine using mortise and tenon joints.

► Gesso Relief:  Using many of the same processes as retablo painting, gesso relief also incorporates dimensional application of a gesso clay (based on the traditional gesso formula) applied to give some form to the figures, objects and borders of a retablo board.

► Hidepainting:  Images of the stories of faith painted on naturally tanned animal hide.

► Ironwork: Hand-forged into tools, fastenings and a variety of household objects.

► Leatherwork/Rawhide:

► Pottery:  Hand-built, unglazed, utilitarian vessels, primarily for food storage and peparation; also decorative items.

► Precious Metals:  Silver filigree and silver objects for daily or sacred use.

► Ramilletes: Paper garlands delicately cut to depict stories of faith, celebration or daily life..

► Relief carving:  Gesso relief retablos and relief carved wood panels similar to ones incorporated into furniture and doors.

► Santos: Depictions of religious figures in the form of bultos (painted and unpainted carvings in the round) or retablos (paintings on wooden panels)

► Straw appliqué: Wheat straw and corn husks cut and applied to painted wood in intricate designs.

► Tinwork:  Cut, punched, and worked into a variety of utilitarian or decorative objects

► Weaving: Loom weavings, traditionally made from hand-spun, vegetal-dyed yarns.

 

And, introducing our new category

► Innovations Within Traditions:  This category allows our Market artists to explore the boundaries of the Spanish Colonial Arts incorporating contemporary themes into the traditional materials and methods.