Vicente Telles presents his work at the 70th Traditional Spanish Market
At just 39 years old, Albuquerque santero Vicente Telles has already created works that hang in two museums.
Last month, the Denver Art Museum purchased his retablo (devotional painting) of “La Malinche” (2018). The piece currently hangs at the Albuquerque Museum in “Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche,” a traveling exhibit from Denver.
In 2021, the Albuquerque Museum purchased its collaborative corner altarpiece with Santa Clara Pueblo tile artist Jason Garcia. The tablets flip over to show the version of La Malinche de Telles, a key, if controversial, figure in the conquest of the Aztecs.
Telles will showcase her work at the 70th Annual Santa Fe Traditional Spanish Market taking place on Saturday July 30 and Sunday July 31.
In 1926, the Spanish Colonial Arts Society launched the Hispanic Artists Market to show and sell their traditional handmade items. The market did not operate during and after World War II until 1965 when the traditional Spanish market was revived as an annual event in Santa Fe Square along with the Indian market.
Since then it has become the longest running and largest juried art exhibition and sale of its kind. Around 200 adult and youth artists compete for prizes in 18 categories. Visitors can find retablos, bultos, jewelry, leather work, ceramics, embroidery, pewter work, hide painting, iron work, textiles and more.
Telles will market around 25 retablos.
“A handful of them will talk about the misfortunes that women are going through right now, like the reversal of Roe v. Wade,” he said.
No stranger to controversial topics, such as border issues, Telles also created St. Antoninus.
“He’s the pro-choice Catholic saint,” Telles said.
He also added St. Thecla to the honor of female strength.
“They’re not as overtly political as some I’ve done, but it’s for the strength these poor women go through,” he added. “Faith is learning to constantly ask questions. And don’t judge.
He will also exhibit his works on paper in Axle Contemporary’s mobile art van, with his co-conspirator Garcia, at the same time as Spanish Market.
Telles’ work draws on the imagery of classic New Mexico santeros, adding a contemporary twist to the iconography. San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers and gardeners, usually carries a hoe.
“How can I put it into a form that makes sense to me and makes sense to someone else?” He asked.
Telles created a series of portraits that paired Morrell’s can of blue bacon with images of Pueblo, Hispanic, and Mexican families. The box crowns the counters of many New Mexican kitchens for its use in making tortillas and bizcochitos.
Telles started making art after dropping out of the University of New Mexico (much to the chagrin of his family) and started working at a metal wall art company in Los Angeles. Ironically, it was a professor at UNM who told him about the santeros. There were none in his family.
“I had a lot of free time, so I started painting,” he said. “I was not very good. I saw the soul in those old photos and carried on.
He began to search for altarpieces, to learn about saints and their attributes, as well as about artists.
For a time, he flipped between California and New Mexico before returning permanently in 2014.
“I don’t think I know I’m an artist yet,” he said. “If I don’t for a while, I start to feel funky; just something is missing.
Telles uses natural pigments in his work. He once picked and ground them himself, but time constraints made it more convenient and he now buys them locally.
“When I’m out in nature, I look at the ground and the rocks,” he said.
New Mexico santero Charles Carrillo is a major influence.
“We mostly talked about history and stories,” Telles said. “He instilled a lot of thought into this work in a more critical way; how they informed the villages of which they were part. He does not just repeat the same thing. He is still trying to find his place. The art form can become quite rigid. How can I become a chapter in a book instead of a footnote? »
The critical role of the santeros in the history of New Mexico fuels his passion.
“The artists of the time were some of the first abstract artists,” he said. “There is an Indigenous influence in this work that needs to be further recognized. They exchanged pigments and knowledge.
Following the Spanish Market, Telles is hosting an exhibition of 60 Southwestern artists at four Albuquerque galleries: Exhibit 208, the South Broadway Cultural Center, Tortuga Gallery, and El Chante: Casa de Cultura on August 5.
Telles has won many awards at the Spanish Market and New Mexico State Fair. His work hangs at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Holy Family Catholic Church in Albuquerque, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Dallas, Texas, and St. Joseph Catholic Church in Salt Lake City, Utah.