Lorrie Garcia. Patrona de la Santa Fe, 2004.
entire piece: 38 × 18 × 9 1/2 in. (96.5 × 45.7 × 24.1 cm).
Courtesy of Steve and Jean Anaya Moya
Garcia, a teacher at Peñasco High School for 25 years, always told her students that everyone has special gifts and should discover their gifts and develop them. She had no idea until she retired from teaching that she had an amazing artistic gift.
A year before retiring in 2001, Garcia and her husband, also a teacher, took a class in Spanish Colonial furniture making. The course was taught by one of her former students, Daniel Tafoya, who encouraged her interest in carving. At first, she did relief carvings of wild animals and horses, which were so good her husband suggested they take a class on making bultos and retablos.
Garcia considers that class the beginning of her career as a santera, marking a significant change in her life. It was the beginning of her passion for creating art.
Garcia makes Northern New Mexico traditional retablos from ponderosa pine and prepares her own pigments and gesso, following the old santeros’ tradition, and finding inspiration in the little churches along the high road to Taos. Over the years, Garcia has carved and painted hundreds of retablos and santos. She usually spends two or three weeks carving the santo, and a week or two adding the iconography and paint before it is complete. She strives to depict the santos in a respectful, but human style. Her approach rests on her view of the saints as role models and patrons, always aware that they started out as regular people who experienced many emotions, including happiness.
While Garcia’s work covers a wide range of themes, she considers herself basically a Marian artist. She has represented Mary as La Guadalupana, La Dolorosa, Nuestra Señora de la Luz, La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre and as many other Marian apparitions as she could discover.
For Garcia, her artwork creates a personal and spiritual connection with the saints. She feels her art is like prayer, supporting her as she strives to be a better person.
While working, she feels a great sense of peace and tries to infuse her pieces with that peace and faith. Garcia has said, “For me, being a santera is a calling that goes beyond technical expertise.”
Today, Garcia’s artwork can be found in churches, museums and private collections around the U.S. and other countries. She has won many awards and including the Archbishop’s Award, which she has won twice. She has also won the People’s Choice Award twice and the Best Collaboration Award with her husband at the Traditional Spanish Market in Santa Fe. Other distinctions include the Women’s De Colores Award of Excellence; Best of Show at the Taos Fall Arts Festival; Best of Show at the Taos Santero Market and Best Traditional Spanish Colonial Award at the State Fair Hispanic Arts.
Along with her traditional bultos and retablos, Garcia has expanded her range to include a new whimsical format of santos painted onto pottery vessel shapes, some with images of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, an Algonquin-Mohawk laywoman canonized in 2012. These pieces fall into the relatively new category, Innovations within the Tradition, at Spanish Market.
Feeling blessed to be able to do the type of work she does, Garcia hopes her devotional artwork will always promote spirituality and peace in those who encounter it.