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Colonial style

Art is a constant in Jerry Montoya’s life.

At times, though, it was tough to find the time.

Whether it was working all day at FedEx or at the Grants/Cibola County Schools, Montoya often carved out moments for it.

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Not to mention he had to balance dad duties.

Today Montoya is retired, and art is taking up a bigger part of his life – though he still has to find the right time.

“In the mornings, I like to get up and paint retablos,” he says. “In the afternoon, I’ll work on tin. I wait until the afternoon because I don’t want to be banging and waking up the neighbors. It’s a schedule that works for me.”

Montoya will be one of nearly 100 artists at the Spanish Colonial Arts Society’s Winter Spanish Market. The two-day event takes place on Saturday, Dec. 2, and Dec. 3 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

The annual event celebrates the authentic 400-year-old traditions and innovations of Spanish Colonial-style artwork, made by New Mexico artists.

There will be art, local music, food, demonstrations and more.

Like its sister event in the summer, there is plenty of art for sale.

“I take a lot of smaller pieces,” Montoya says. “Everybody is looking for gifts, and it’s great to have some for them to take home.”

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Montoya’s niche in art is quite varied, as he is known for retablos, crosses and tinwork.

And to distinguish himself from other artists, he fuses all three mediums into many pieces.

“Painting santos didn’t begin until later in life for me,” he says. “I’ve always loved the Renaissance artists (Michelangelo and Raphael) with their glorious and very spiritual images.”

The Grants resident’s love for art started when an elementary school teacher introduced him to fine art.

He nurtured his talent, eventually attending New Mexico State University, where he received his formal art training.

“While studying fine art, I was exposed to commercial art and found that it could be very useful in making a living,” he says.

After college, he settled down and began to raise a family. His muse became Southwestern art. But he wanted something more.

Montoya began to paint acrylic pieces with religious icons.

“I embraced my rich culture and history,” he says. “It was always there inside me; I just had to tap into it.”

Over the years, Montoya’s given a distinct style to his art.

Because he can work with multiple mediums, he’s able to incorporate them.

“I started doing retablos. Then I started doing crosses,” he says. “Then I needed something to go around my art. I needed to embellish them. I started using tin, and then it took on a life of its own.”

Montoya continues to use this style. He uses a process called repujado, or embossed, for his tinwork.

“The style is innovative and stays within the tradition of tin making,” he says. “I’ve also begun to use patina on some pieces. It’s going really well. I’m having fun with it. I didn’t invent the style; I just put my own spin on all of it. The hardest thing about working with tin is that each artist has to make their tools. You can’t really go to the store to buy tools. Each artist modifies them differently.”


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