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Market a Garden for the Eyes

SANTA FE, N.M. — You don’t think of the Beatles, Andy Warhol and Janis Joplin as figures in a traditional bulto.

But Spanish Market iconoclast Marie Romero Cash turned these symbols of rebellion into a “Sixties Redux” wheel of life and won the Innovations Within Tradition Award on Friday night.

The 61st Annual Traditional Spanish Market opened with a flurry of ribbons and awards at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. The market spans this weekend and is expected to lure about 70,000 visitors to the Plaza, organizers say. The annual celebration showcases the work of 350 local Hispanic artists embellished by live music and dance, art demonstrations and regional foods.

Chimayó weaver Irvin L. Trujillo took the grand prize Best of Show for his dazzling textile “Sembrando la Huerta.” The complex composition depicts a chile garden, complete with 14-karat gold thread, merino wool and silk. A saltillo or traditional diamond shape spans the center of the piece, with blue squiggles of rain and a galaxy of X’s representing bean seeds. A meditating figure holding a spiritual book rests at the bottom.

Trujillo learned to weave at 10 from his father, master weaver Jake Ortega Trujillo. The younger Trujillo branched from seven generations of Chimayó weavers. He dyes all his own yarns; in 2002, designer Ralph Lauren commissioned him to do the same for his latest line. Trujillo started his winning piece last October and finished in May, working nine hours a day, six days a week.

Carrying a white three-ring binder, Trujillo sketches out rough designs as they come to him.

“But the geometric (aspect) is improvisation,” he said. He finds weaving meditative; sometimes he feels like a conduit to some higher force guiding him.

Trujillo maintains he was shocked at his win despite having claimed the top award four times in previous markets.

“When I was taking the piece in, there were some pieces that were unreal,” he said. “The pieces are serious, not just a hobby. The market has gotten better every year.”

Los Lunas’ Nicolas Otero painted and carved a crucifixion scene to take first place in the small retablo category. He mixes his own natural pigments and carved the piece using pine. Two hidden doors open and close to reveal the entombed body of Christ. Twenty-two figures line the 5-by-8-inch front, including a nearly fainting Mary collapsing in the arms of John, while a flutter of angels collects the blood across a glowing palette of oranges and golds. This marks Otero’s 15th year at the market.

“The last years have been pretty tough personally,” he said. “Sometimes, you kind of meditate on the sorrowful.

“A lot of people are turned off by the crucifixion because of the blood and the gore,” he added. “But it sends a message.”

Santa Fe’s Marie Romero Cash’s ’60s circle is one of a series she has crafted depicting the decades. A ’50s version featured Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

“I’m not sure that much happened in the ’70s that was monumental,” she mused.

Her past creations have captured the “Bad Girls” of the Bible –– Eve, Delilah, Bathsheba. She based her first wheel on Shakespeare’s nine faces of life.

This is her 36th year showing at the market. She started painting and carving as a post-divorce adult.

“My parents were tinsmiths, so I came home from Florida and Arizona –– you couldn’t be around my parents with doing something creative.”

At first, she produced the more traditional religious imagery.

“After you’re in market for a few years, how many St. Anthonys can you do?” she asked. “I kept breaking out and pushing the envelope.”