May 5, 2000


Popular Hispanic Sculpture Exhibit featuring the work of Patrocinio Barela shows the influence the woodcarver had on his community

Carlos Barela, Taos, New Mexico wood sculptor who is carrying on the tradition of his grandfather, Patrocinio, is featured speaker and children's workshop leader

Carlos Barela of Taos, New Mexico will speak about the dramatic life of his abuelo, Patrocinio, the first American Hispanic artist to exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1936. The elder Barela died in a tragic fire at his studio in Canon, NM in 1964. Barela; Recordando Un Artista Del Pueblo is currently on exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Man located at 1350 El Prado in historic Balboa Park. Appearances by Carlos Barela:

May 7, 2000, Children's Carving Workshop —an interactive hands-on carving demonstration at Centro Cultural de la Raza, 1-4 p.m. 2004 Park Boulevard, Balboa Park. Carlos will explain the traditions of woodcarving from the Hispanic culture, he will show and explain the work of his grandfather and teach children ages ten through eighteen how to carve a bulto or santo. Families are invited to attend.

May 8, 2000, 12 Noon — The 12 o'clock Scholar at Gill Auditorium, The San Diego Museum of Man. Barela will present a slide show and talk about his grandfather's work. Admission is free.

The exhibit centers around the work of Patrocinio Barela (1900-1964) recognized nationally as one of the most important mid-twentieth century Mexican-American artists. As a self-taught woodcarver from Taos, NM, he was a unique representative of both the American modernist tradition and the Hispanic santero tradition, which he redefined by carving images from a single unpainted piece of wood. More importantly, Barela surpassed the constraints of the Catholic imagery usually represented by the santeros and instead he interpreted the familiar in a way that brought much needed relevance into his community. In 1936, Barela exhibited his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in an exhibit titled New Horizons in American Art. Barela, who was considered a visionary, was singled out by Time Magazine the same year as the "discovery of the year" for the strong character displayed in his art. The current exhibit Barela: Recor-dando Un Artista Del Pueblo features the work of Barela along with carvings of the artists that he influenced.

Carlos Barela, the eldest grandson of Patrocinio was only nine years old when his grandfather died in an early morning fire but the influence of his abuelo is still felt by Barela. He recalls a time when he was alone in his garage late at night carving a crucifix. His mind was fixed on how he could get the wood to portray the weight of the Cristo's body on the feet as they were nailed to the cross. Suddenly, he heard a man's voice say, "mi hijo." Thinking it was a friend playing a trick; Carlos searched for the prankster but there was no one but Carlos in his garage that midnight. He stood up when he heard the voice again. It said, "Muy bien, mi hijo." He then recognized the voice as his grandfather's.

The two woodcarvers have many parallels in their lives. Like his grandfather, Carlos began carving when he was 32 years old. Like Patricinio did, Carlos uses only hand tools to create his sculpture. Most all of the sculpture created by Patrocinio and Carlos is made from a solid piece of wood.

While his work is decidedly different than his grandfather's, Carlos draws inspiration from his abuelo. He will be exhibiting a work done as a tribute to Patrocinio that took him over six months to complete. Sagrada Trinidad, created from juniper found in the canyons around Taos feature the Holy Trinity overlooking the world. The crown of thorns on the head of Jesus was created by a carved braid, which is filled with handset thorns. A cross completes the sculpture but instead of the traditional depiction of a hard-edged cross, Carlos interprets the tenderness of the cross with a curved design reflecting the curvature of the world.

Patrocinio has left a legacy of family carvers. Carlos is extending the legacy to a new generation, his thirteen-year-old son, Roberto, carves alongside his father. He took two ribbons in the youth division at his first ever-Spanish Market held in Santa Fe, NM last July. Carlos's younger brother, Luis, is also a carver whose work is featured in the exhibit along with his two sons, Eric and Daniel.

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