Artist Statement and Bio
As a Santera (Saint Maker), I hope to preserve some of the unique traditions of my Hispanic culture. Retablos are the story tellers of my ancestors. They are the natural extension of the beauty and simplicity of our Spanish lives. My husband, Michael and I aspire to represent our work with as much historic accuracy as possible.
My first exposure to this art form came when, as a child, I visited the churches in the San Luis Valley. My family had been among the first settlers in the Conejos land grant and lived in Mogote and Las Mesitas, Colorado. After visiting old churches in Chimayo and northern New Mexico, as an adult, I came to realize the meaning of the little retablos that had been in our family. In 1991, I began making retablos for my family and friends. Then in 1995, when I was admitted into the Spanish Market, I became a full time artist.
I have taken workshops from Santero, Charlie Carillo in 1995, I have carved Bultos with my cousin Rubel Jaramillo, and also learned some new techniques from Gustavo Victor Goler, from Talpa, New Mexico in 1999.
I participated in a workshop through the Smithsonian Institute in Santa Fe, NM in 2001. I have done artist demonstrations at the Santa Fe Spanish Market in 1998-2005 and at Chili Harvest Festival , Fort Lewis Collage in Durango, CO and at the Sangre De Christo Arts Center. Demonstrations are usually a part of every art show I attend. Recently I teach about retablos at the Denver Public Schools and at El Museo De Las Americas, as well as private lessons.
Catherine Robles-Shaw. La Familia de los Santos, 2005. wood, gesso, natural pigments, pinón sap varnish. entire piece: 50 × 2 in. (127 × 5.1 cm). Courtesy Millicent Rogers Museum
The San Luis Valley
The San Luis Valley, located in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, is roughly 125 miles long by 50 miles wide. The elevation ranges between 7,500 and 8,000 feet above sea level. The valley is bound on the East by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, on the North by the Sawatch Mountains, and on the West by the San Juan Mountains. It is watered by the Saguache and San Luis creeks in the north and by the Rio Grande River, which flows south through the middle of the valley.
My family's ancestors, Came to New Mexico with the Onate Party in 1598. Much later on, led by Miguel Jaramillo, were some the first settlers of the Conejos land grant of 1838. They defended their homeland of La Madera, NM and explored the outlands of the North. Their flocks of sheep took them to a land between Los Pinos River and the Conejos River and they claimed Jaramillo Vista as their estate in this land grant. Miguel and his sons and daughters were the shepherds, weavers, carpenters, abobemakers, churchmakers, coffin builders, tool makers, farmers, trappers, hunters, defenders of the home land for the outpost of Las Mesitas and Los Mogotes, under the shadow of Los Mogotes Peak. This Spanish culture was carried on with little change due to their isolation.
I am very lucky to have my cousin Rubel Jaramillo there to show me the lands and traditions of our ancestors.
Our Land Grant was west on the divide of what today is Ozier. Traveling to the East one would pass through those of the Gomez and Romero,and Sanchez, Martinez, Valdes, Velasqez families. The Railroad bisected these lands on its passage to the West. The Grants stretched from Los Pinos River on the South to the Conejos River on the North and the Families resided in Los Mogote or Las Mesitas during winter and most of the year. Most of these lands were lost during the depression over land taxes and have been taken over by the BLM.