Monica Sosaya Halford
Santa Fe, NM
Monica Sosaya Halford. Hope Chest, 2012. wood, gesso, watercolor. entire piece: 14 × 30 × 17 in. (35.6 × 76.2 × 43.2 cm). Coutesy of Maria Goler Baca
Monica Sosaya Halford is the “Grand Dame” of the traditional Spanish Market in Santa Fe. At 91 she is the oldest working artist to participate in Spanish Market, but she is much more than an artist. Monica is dedicated to teaching as a way to preserve the rich, artistic culture of her proud heritage.
Monica’s ancestors were among the first Spanish to settle in what is now New Mexico, arriving in 1598 with Don Juan de Onate. Her childhood home, built by her father, was on Sosaya Street in Santa Fe. One of her early art teachers was Jozef Barkos, a member of Santa Fe’s noted Los Cinco Pintores. When Monica graduated from high school the U.S. was engaged in the Korean War, and Monica joined the Navy WAVES. During her tour of duty, she was a flight attendant on military planes, a cartoonist for the local Navy Squadron newspaper and she helped redesign the community facility at the U.S. Naval Base in Alameda, California. She went on to study interior design at California College of Arts and Crafts in Berkeley, California.
Monica has combined her creative gifts and talents with her love for the traditional art forms of her cultural history. She paints retablos, often combining tin work with painting on wood and unusual surfaces, including doors, can tops and tin ceiling tiles. Sometimes she uses glass and animal hides as her canvas. Monica’s subjects vary from serious, devotional art to whimsical, contemporary works. She is particularly known for her retablos of the traditional Matachines which have been a source of fascination since she first saw them when she was young.
Her work is in the collections of The Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts, and National Hispanic Cultural Center as well as in private collections all over the country. Monica has been the poster artist for Spanish Market, and her artwork has been featured numerous times on items used for fundraising. She always donates a portion of her market sales to charity.
Monica has received the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Governor’s Award in the Arts, and the Spanish Life Time Achievement Award. But what she values most is her legacy as a teacher, helping younger generations learn the traditional art forms and techniques of her culture. As well as teaching at the Folk Art Museum, the Community College, and the Hispanic Cultural Center, Monica has mentored many young people whose art has become popular and sought after at Spanish Market. Monica feels that it is her mentoring that allows her to instill a sense of worth and history in the children. She loves to support fellow and budding artists and invites them to show and sell their crafts at her annual Amigos Party hosted in her home.
Monica’s accomplishments, talents and generosity are legendary. Her love and joy in giving are reflected in her work and in her life.