Editor’s note: Venue Plus continues “In Case You Didn’t Know,” a weekly feature with fun tidbits about New Mexicans and their projects.
In the southside of Santa Fe there is a massive sculpture that draws attention.
A legless giant, constructed of metal, is reaching up to the sky.
This is the work of Santa Fe native Hernan Gomez Chavez. The work is named “Un Pueblo sin Piernas pero Que Camina (Ugolino) 2022” and recently became part of the city’s Art in Public Places program. The piece is located at the Southside Library at 6599 Jaguar Drive in Santa Fe.
Gomez Chavez says the sculpture is intended to comment on the disparities in Santa Fe and the perseverance of the community living on Santa Fe’s Southside.
Gomez Chavez finds inspiration for his art in everyday events.
He took interest in art as a child, where he let his imagination run wild.
While a student at Santa Fe High, he began to work with clay and metal.
“This is when I started getting into metal production and welding,” he says. “I went through the welding program at Santa Fe Community College and it helped me get a better skill set. I learned how to do the fabrication work properly.”
For Gomez Chavez, he enjoys the durability of metal, which is why he prefers the medium.
He learned early that the medium can also be dangerous.
“I was fearful,” he says of working with metal. “I heard stories of people getting injured on the job. I knew I had to do it right and take all the precautions. There’s something that comes over me when my hands are working with metal. It’s like I transport to another place and create something that feels right.”
Gomez Chavez has had to slow down a little due to a shoulder injury, but he’s on the mend.
“I’m used to working every day,” he says. “I find myself coming up with ideas that will become real once I’m healed.”
He works in copper, bronze or stainless steel and finds it just as beautiful.
“It’s been an education learning what each metal does,” he says. “I think back to the body of work that I started back in 2015 and when I studied in Prague while I was at UNM. I was looking at producing kitschy objects. My style have been evolving since.”
The evolution of his art has been influenced by living in the Southside of Santa Fe for all his life.
While he’s traveled and studied abroad, Santa Fe remains his home.
“My work often goes back to displacement and the sense of home and belonging,” he says. “Those are at the core of everything I create. When I was in high school, I didn’t feel like I really belonged. I want my pieces to be seen as a powerful force for the underrepresented or undervalued. I want the pieces to be a representation of the life in Santa Fe.”
As Gomez Chavez continues to create art, here are a few things you didn’t know about him:
1 “I began welding in high school. I learned at Santa Fe High.”
2 “My mom comes from a family of 12; all of her siblings, my aunts and uncles live here in Santa Fe. One of the reasons this place is a true home is because most of my family resides here.”
3 “Since learning to weld in high school, steel has been my primary medium for sculptural work.”
4 “I, along with other local community members in Santa Fe, have campaigned for the preservation of the Multicultural mural at the old Halpin Arts Building since early 2020.”
(More information can be found at keepsantafemulticultural.org.)
5 “Most of the work I create is grounded in some form or another in the New Mexican landscape, the U.S.-Mexico border, or the Southwest. This place and its history are huge influences on my work.”