Friday, February 26, 2010

Retablo and Ex Voto with a Contemporary Spin

Our six week studio (at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia) exploring Retablo and Ex Voto (from a contemporary perspective) has come to its conclusion. First we learned the history and tradition of this Mexican folk art... how the retablo, which literally translates to 'behind the altar' originated with "Santero boxes" carried into Mexico by the Spanish Conquistadors of the 16th century. The history of the boxes is complex and by the 17th to the 19th centuries they were gradually transformed, passed from one generation to the next, until the art form morphed into charming pictorial images of saints helping to lift one through the difficulties and challenges of life.

In our studio the artists constructed a timeline that mapped out highs and lows of their own life experience. From there they chose a direction for creating a piece of work that celebrated a miracle or honored an issue that holds personal meaning. I wish that you could also hear the reading of each artist's statement, a required part of the studio, as of course they provide a way to deepen the engagement with the work...I trust that you'll get the feeling that a good and meaningful time was had by all.

Carol has a love affair with all things related to the Chesapeake Bay environment. From her living room window she has a lovely view of the Euclidean Plane where sky meets water and she spends time on the beach daily walking with Saffron, her Golden, collecting whatever catches her eye. Over the years Carol's taught herself how to incorporate seaweed into her art, dying fabrics and making handmade paper that is impregnated with the

weed's undulating patterns. Here she has incorporated found wood, double sided photos, fishing line and a Whelk's egg case to create a retablo about Being Home.

In the two pieces presented here she has incorporated the house shape; as icon that serves as a recurring source of inspiration for her work.

Over the years Patricia has had a dream time visitation. The dream contains imagery of marriage, lost children, an ominous well and a canine (alternating between wolf and dog). Here she has delved into the meaning and the symbolism of the well and brought it to a place where, when entered, one finds reflective gold representing what lies within.
Her medium is paper mache, paint mixed with sand that is layered and carved, leather, mirror, gold leaf and plastic still life bananas :-) embedded inside the feet of the well.

Terri tends to work large. Clay is her primary medium. For Contemporary Retablo she scaled down, choosing a cigar box as her 'Santero'. Her elements of personal significance include Christ, woman, child, temptation and the redemptive journey.
Terri employed bisque, metallic paints, embossed tin, photographic image transfer, cardboard collage and grommets to create her piece.

I wanted to share these pieces with you because it inspires me greatly to see what comes from working as a group, watching the play of common ground... in this case employing the tradition of Retablo/Ex Voto.
I designed the Retablo/ExVoto studio more than a decade ago. It is always such a treat to see what comes rising up to meet each individual in a personally relevant, completely 'in the moment' fashion.
May you find art in your heart.


  1. It is always so creative to see a group of artists get together with a common theme and historical basis and come up with such diverse ideas and works.

  2. As Donna commented, there are so many different interpretations. Quite amazing!

  3. All so cool...What a workshop to participate in!
    Each piece is interesting, insightful and thoughtful, I love that each work has such personal meaning. Personal retablos. The media choices are intriquing.

  4. really magnificent works. Each so unique and thoughtful. Love the banana feet, but you know my leanings for the paper mache medium :)


Thanks for stopping '-)