The Art of the Retablo

I have a passion for old religious pieces – large gesso or chalkware saint sculptures, old wood santos, nichos or retablos that represent folklore … There is something romantic about those pieces. Religious art has evolved since human started making art, till’ this day, and will continue to do so. One thing that I notice is how the expression on the faces of sculptures have change over the years – from a reverent and languid appeal to a more “normal” or “joyful” state.  Here is a picture of an antique italian chalkware statue of the Holy Family dating from the early 1900’s versus a contemporary statue depicting the same characters.

Antique sculpture of the Holy Family Antique sculpture of the Holy Family

Contemporary statue

Contemporary statue

If you notice the facial expressions, on the later sculpture the characters are looking up, almost in a happy state or “hello” demeanor, while in the older statue, the figures seem more solemn, reverent, and almost sad, or peaceful. There are many differences between these two statues, including the lack of detail of the base, feet, and clothing … .

One of the items that I love to recreate is the old retablo, an art that almost disappeared at one time. Retablos are supposed to be made of wood, hand painted, and with a rustic appeal, almost as if the artist worked with the “few materials at hand” reminiscent of the traditions of the populace, the people of faith who made them. Here is one of my Retablos or Nichos (niche) of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I created this sculpture using a variety of mixed materials. I am working on a few other retablos, and designs (I know, I should be writing – but sometimes I need a little break to recharge my batteries). In each of my religious sculptures, I hide a small gemstone, in this case,  a tiny opal. Can you spot it? You might need to use the zoom feature. Here is the photo.

Virgin of Guadalupe Retablo

Virgin of Guadalupe Retablo

Here is a closer look.

Guadalupe Virgin by Maria Antonia Diaz

Guadalupe Virgin by Maria Antonia Diaz

I enjoy making these. You can find more information about this piece at my online store – where I let go and just create.

In addition to retablos, another lost art is the one of the “Wood Santos” or “Santos de Palo” that is part of many Latin America cultures, as well as European folklore. You can see the same old vs. contemporary features in these. The old santos had live detail, as if the artist or devoted revered the piece while crafting it. Today pieces lack that, almost looking faceless, with no expression, or a cold demeanor. But these are the pieces that are mass-marketed that look like that. I’ve  seen some European artists who sculpt santos, many life-size, and their art becomes almost alive, rich in detail, even the rustic pieces that are simpler. But these artists are very proud of what they do, and put much soul in each piece.  A mass-marketed piece is produced with the purpose of creating volume, not art. However, I have to say that some mass-marketed pieces, the very old ones, had much detail, the molds were carefully made. With the pass of time, the attention to detail in these molds became less important, I guess, giving way to quantity/volume.

Next time you come across an older sculpture, take a good look at it and see how each little crevice tells a story.

Your Wish is my Command

I had wished for two things and I got them for my birthday.  To me, a birthday should be about celebration, but also about the things you love or wish.  It is the day that you go all me-me-me, and you are entitled to it, simply because it is your special day, a celebration of the day you came to be on this planet.  That is big!  It is the day that you should take off from work, sleep late, and indulge yourself with all your favorites.  It is a day to pamper and spoil yourself rotten – it is all about you.  If nobody remembers it, you did, and you were good to yourself, and that counts too.  Make your day count, you are not an amoeba (not that there is anything wrong with being an amoeba) you are special, so start treating yourself that way.

For my birthday, two wishes came true – a copy of The Grievers from author Marc Schuster and a Maneki Neko sculpture from artist Christina Colwell of Helix Art and Glass.  Both things, I have coveted for a while and finally got them on the perfect day.   Here is a picture of them.

Now, I have plans for my anniversary, which is coming soon 🙂  but that my friends, is another post.

Here I leave you with this blog post from thoughtsontheatre – http://thoughtsontheatre.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/how-to-be-kind-to-yourself/

and an expression from a fellow blogger Eric Wang – Healthdemystified  that I read and love – “I’m gonna live my life in constant beta.”