LAS CRUCES — The National Endowment for the Arts has approved a $40,000 grant for the University Art Museum at New Mexico State University, among $1.6 million in NEA awards recommended for art projects in the New Mexico.
The NEA recently announced more than $91 million in recommended grants to organizations in all 50 states and jurisdictions across the United States. Grants are divided into three NEA funding categories: Grants for Arts Projects, Our City and State, and Regional Partnerships.
The NEA grant to the University Art Museum will support “Contemporary Ex-Votos: Devotion Beyond Medium,” a two-part exhibition featuring 19th- and 20th-century retablos from NMSU’s permanent art collection alongside new works by Latinx artists, which will open in September.
NMSU holds the largest public collection of retablos in the United States – over 2,000 works on pewter, wood, copper, and canvas in addition to other objects of sacred art.
“The exhibit, associated public programming, and accompanying catalog will demonstrate the important place that altarpieces hold in the history of the Americas, recontextualizing future studies of contemporary devotion in Latin America and the United States,” said said Marisa Sage, Director of UAM.
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Ex-votos are retablos depicting miracles painted on pewter and other found materials, usually painted by self-taught artists. They are part of a tradition of Mexican folk art depicting religious stories of hope and suffering alleviated by divine intervention, resulting in healing and devotion.
“This NEA grant is one of many awards given by different organizations to the University Art Museum in recent years,” said Enrico Pontelli, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “In this case, the NEA grant will not only help expand public access and understanding of NMSU’s vast collection of retablos, but also increase scholars’ access to these works which form an important part of the culture and community of the border regions.”
The UAM exhibit will be accompanied by a digitization project of over 250 of the NMSU altarpiece collection. It will include an artist residency and commissioned works.
“The intent of this project is to analyze ex-voto via new Latinx art practices that expand this historical medium,” Sage said. “The breadth of the commissioned works, the experimentation with mediumistic and disparate approaches to devotion will shed new light on this important and often overlooked genre of art. This project will demonstrate not only the power of “popular painting,” but also how the resilience of historical material culture can engender powerful dialogues that can shape new approaches to contemporary political, social, and cultural issues. »
The emerging Latinx artists were chosen by exhibition curator Emmanuel Ortega, The Marilynn Thoma Scholar in Art of the Spanish Americas at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Ortega has held numerous exhibitions across the United States and in Mexico. Selected artists will use the NMSU retablo collection through residency and digitized works to create ex-votos of various media to shed light on understudied iconographic/ideological aspects of the genre.
Artists in residence include Yvette Mayorga and Xochi Solis. Solis will spend time in the retablo NMSU collection to contemplate the social construction of how artists and cultural production existed around the creation of ex-voto and how this mode of functioning can exist in contemporary artistic practices, and will create 20 works on paper imitating the floor-to-ceiling displays seen at pilgrimage sites. Mayorga will create a sanctuary site filled with ex-votos in the UAM using his method of sculptural ceramic piping and found materials and objects from his NMSU retablo collection residence and pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayó in the northern New Mexico.
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Other artists include: José Villalobos, Daisy Quezada, Francisco Guevara, Krystal Ramirez, Dan Hernández, Guadalupe Maravilla, Justin Favela, John Jota Leaños, Eric J. Garcia and Sandy Rodriguez.
Educational programming includes a video commissioned by the ‘Unsettling Journeys’ YouTube channel, which examines the historical contexts of the art of ex-voto production in Mexico, including research, interviews and digital animations of the collection restore NMSU.
An animation workshop presented at Las Cruces Public Schools will teach students to digitally glue ex-voto items, selecting cutouts from digitized historical retablos.
“The goal of this workshop is for students to understand their stories in relation to the context and iconography of retablos while learning digital skills,” Sage said.
“UAM aims to reflect and amplify the voices of our predominantly Hispanic community,” she added. “We are committed to creating new spaces to collectively reimagine narratives of decolonization, democracy, and justice through art.”
Minerva Baumann writes for New Mexico State University Marketing and Communications and can be reached at 575-646-7566, or by email at [email protected]