Art

What inspires a renowned santera?

Arlene Cisneros Sena gives answers at a Women Give-Taos Brunch and Learn event

By Tempo staff
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 10/16/19

New Mexico artist Arlene Cisneros Sena creates contemporary retablos in traditional form to express pride in her heritage. Sena's works make innovative use of natural pigments, while her soft, graceful lines and delicately applied gold leaf render familiar imagery in an immediately recognizable, personal style, an online statement reads.

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Art

What inspires a renowned santera?

Arlene Cisneros Sena gives answers at a Women Give-Taos Brunch and Learn event

Posted

New Mexico artist Arlene Cisneros Sena creates contemporary retablos in traditional form to express pride in her heritage. Sena's works make innovative use of natural pigments, while her soft, graceful lines and delicately applied gold leaf render familiar imagery in an immediately recognizable, personal style, an online statement reads.

Sena will provide insights into her work during the Women Give Brunch and Learn event planned Saturday (Oct. 19), 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., at the Taos Country Club, 54 Gold Course Drive, off County Road 110, in Ranchos de Taos.

Sponsoring organization Women Give-Taos is the Taos Community Foundation's Women's Giving Circle, supporting women and girls in our community, according to a TCF press release.

Sena's roots are in Northern New Mexico - the heart of early santo making. Her profession is also rooted in part in her family heritage and early childhood experience. As a young girl, she was surrounded with home altars and shrines devoted to the santos.

"I believe that santero art speaks for itself … and speaks to each viewer in a different way," Sena is quoted in a statement at newmexicowomeninthearts.org. "One person may appreciate its artistic qualities, another may respond to an object of devotion. Today, I carry on the tradition and faith of a family where saints were very much a part of our lives. As a young girl I was surrounded with home altars and shrines devoted to the santos that protected and cared for the family. I call myself a santera, and I create the devotional pieces that will be treasured, blessed and appreciated by its owner. I am expressing myself by acknowledging my culture and preserving an art form for future generations to carry on."

A santo is generally defined as a painted three-dimensional sculpture known individually as a bulto or two-dimensional painting on a plank of wood called a retablo. Typically, they depict Roman Catholic saints and religious figures. These devotional expressions are rooted in New Mexico's Spanish Colonial Period, during which images were locally created for home altars, chapels and churches absent more formal religious art from Spain.

Sena's work has achieved national and international acclaim. In addition to countless private collections, her santos have been acquired by the Museum of International Folk Art and Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in Santa Fe, the Taylor Museum in Colorado Springs and Regis University in Denver, Colorado, and the Vatican in Rome.

She is a recipient of the New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in 2010, the Spanish Colonial Arts Society's Master's Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2012, the Archbishop of Santa Fe's Award in 2001 and she was featured in an episode of the PBS "Colores!" program in 2017.

Sena has completed a number of prestigious large-scale commissions including altar screens for Santa Fe's St. Francis Cathedral Basilica, the Bishop of Gallup's private chapel and St. Anthony Parish in Questa, as well as commissions for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Santa Maria de la Paz, San Isidro, St. Anne's and Santuario de Chimayó.

Tickets for the plated lunch and lecture are $25 per person. They may be purchased online at taoscf.org or by calling the foundation at (575) 737-9300.

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