Vicente Telles showcases work at 70th Traditional Spanish Market

Santero Vicente Telles will be showcasing his work at the 70th Annual Traditional Spanish Market

Albuquerque artist Vicente Telles who will be displaying his work at Santa Fe’s Traditional Spanish Market. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

bright spotAt just 39, Albuquerque santero Vicente Telles has already created work that hangs in two museums.

Last month, the Denver Art Museum bought his retablo (devotional painting) of “La Malinche” (2018). The piece currently hangs in the Albuquerque Museum in “Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche,” a traveling show from Denver.

Vicente Telles, “La Malinche,” 2018. (Courtesy of the Denver Art Museum)

In 2021, the Albuquerque Museum bought his collaborative corner altarpiece with Santa Clara Pueblo tile artist Jason Garcia. The tablets flip to show Telles’ version of La Malinche, a key, if controversial, figure in the conquest of the Aztecs.

Telles will show his work at Santa Fe’s 70th Annual Traditional Spanish Market happening Saturday, July 30, and Sunday, July 31.

In 1926, the Spanish Colonial Arts Society launched the market for Hispanic artists to show and sell their traditional handmade objects. The market did not operate during and after World War II until 1965, when Traditional Spanish Market was revived as an annual event on the Santa Fe Plaza along with Indian Market.

Since then, it has swollen into the oldest and largest juried art show and sale of its kind. Approximately 200 adult and youth artists compete for prizes in 18 categories. Visitors can find retablos, bultos, jewelry, leather work, ceramics, embroidery, tin work, hide painting, iron work, textiles and more.

Telles will be bringing about 25 retablos to the market.

“A handful of them will speak to the woes women are going through now, like the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” he said.

No stranger to controversial subject matter, such as border issues, Telles also a created St. Antoninus.

“He’s the pro-choice Catholic saint,” Telles said.

He also added St. Thecla to honor of the strength of women.

“They’re not as overtly political as some I’ve done, but it’s for the strength these poor women are going through,” he added. “Faith is learning to constantly ask questions. And don’t judge.”

He’ll also be showing his works on paper at Axle Contemporary’s mobile art van, along with his co-conspirator Garcia, concurrently with Spanish Market.

Telles’ work draws on the imagery of the classic New Mexican santeros, adding a contemporary touch to the iconography. San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers and gardeners, usually carries a hoe.

“How do I put it in a form that makes sense to me and makes sense to someone else?” he asked.

Telles created a portrait series pairing the blue Morrell lard can with images of pueblo, Hispanic and Mexican families. The can crowns the counters of many New Mexican kitchens for its use in making tortillas and bizcochitos.

Albuquerque artist Vicente Telles works on a new piece. Telles will display his work at Santa Fe’s Traditional Spanish Market. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Telles began making art after he dropped out of the University of New Mexico (to his family’s chagrin) and began working in a Los Angeles metal wall art company. Ironically, it was a UNM professor who told him about the santeros. There were none in his family.

“I had a lot of time on my hands, so I started painting,” he said. “I wasn’t very good. I saw the soul in these old pictures and I kept going.”

He began researching retablos, learning about the saints and their attributes, as well as the artists.

For awhile, he toggled between California and New Mexico before returning permanently in 2014.

“I don’t think I still know that I’m an artist,” he said. “If I don’t do it for awhile, I start to feel funky; there’s something just missing.”

Telles uses natural pigments in his work. He once gathered and ground them himself, but time restraints made him more practical and he now buys them locally.

“When I’m in nature, I geek out looking at the ground and the rocks,” he said.

New Mexico santero Charles Carrillo is a major influence.

“We just mostly talked history and the stories,” Telles said. “He instilled a lot of thinking about this work in a more critical way; how they informed the villages they were a part of. He’s not content with repeating the same thing. He’s always trying to find his niche. The art form can become quite rigid. How do I become a chapter in a book instead of a footnote?”

The critical role of the santeros in New Mexico history drives his passion.

“The artists back then were one of the first abstract artists,” he said. “There’s Indigenous influence in this work that needs to be recognized more. They exchanged pigments and knowledge.”

Post-Spanish Market, Telles is organizing an exhibition of 60 Southwestern artists in shows across four Albuquerque galleries: Exhibit 208, the South Broadway Cultural Center, Tortuga Gallery and El Chante: Casa de Cultura on Aug. 5.

Telles has won numerous awards at Spanish Market and the New Mexico State Fair. His work hangs in the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque’s Holy Family Catholic Church, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Dallas, Texas and at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Home » Bright Spot » Santero Vicente Telles will be showcasing his work at the 70th Annual Traditional Spanish Market


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
True Story House provides listeners with songs about real ...
Arts
Band is set to release first ... Band is set to release first full-length album this fall
2
SF poet Arthur Sze awarded honor for lifetime achievement
Arts
Arthur Sze was awarded the Ruth ... Arthur Sze was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which is given out by the Poetry Foundation in October.
3
Buen Vieje returns to the North Fourth Arts Center ...
Arts
North Fourth Art Center resident company ... North Fourth Art Center resident company Buen Viaje Dance is back with two performances at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and 2 p.m. Sunday, ...
4
Upstart Crows to perform 'A Christmas Carol' resplendent in ...
Arts
The Upstart Crows will stage their ... The Upstart Crows will stage their own annual readings of the classic Christmas fable on Dec. 17, 23 and 25 in Santa Fe.
5
New Mexico Gay Men's Chorus singing 'Scrooge!' with a ...
Arts
Based on the 1970 film musical ... Based on the 1970 film musical of the same name, 'Scrooge!' will play at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe on Friday, ...
6
Is it 'safe' to grow tomatoes in Styrofoam?
Arts
Are you asking me if, since ... Are you asking me if, since the containers are made of Styrofoam, would the tomatoes pick up any chemicals leaching from the Styrofoam? That ...
7
Here are the details for Jemez's Light Among The ...
Arts
Historic site welcomes back in-person visitors ... Historic site welcomes back in-person visitors to the annual event
8
Santa Fe Opera wins international recognition as 'Festival of ...
ABQnews Seeker
The International Opera Awards named the ... The International Opera Awards named the artistic nucleus just north of Santa Fe 'Festival of the Year' at a ceremony in Madrid, Spain.
9
Artist Sandro Gebert's 'Ideogramer' an homage to street artists
Arts
'Ideogramer' will hang at Santa Fe's ... 'Ideogramer' will hang at Santa Fe's Gebert Contemporary through Dec. 31.