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Museum exhibits over 100 personal visions of Old Man Gloom

Artists have twisted him into Picasso-worthy facial contortions, poured him into earrings and splashed him across T-shirts.

Zozobra fans can see local versions of Old Man Gloom in “Zozofest” at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe. The annual burning of the giant monster will take place about 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2, though festivities begin at 6 p.m.

Curators have gathered more than 100 personal visions of the Santa Fe Fiesta icon for display and sale. The formats range from markers, photographs on metal, quilts, acrylic paintings, photography, pen and ink, sculptures and even a crocheted, scowling Christmas tree topper.

The 12-year-old exhibition brings Zozobra and his inspirations into the same building, said Scott Wiseman of the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club, which sponsors the event.

Cerrillos resident Lauren Stutzman turned the gloomy guy into a 14-inch crocheted Christmas tree topper. She was inspired by an Austrian tradition she learned about when she was living in Vermont.

“I make a Christmas monster called Krampus from Austrian folklore,” she said. “He was the first Grinch.”

Krampus is one bad dude. He carries chains in one hand and a whip in the other to accompany St. Nicholas. While St. Nick delivers presents to the good kids, Krampus takes care of the bad.

“Zozometti” by Scott Wiseman is on display in Santa Fe.

“Zozometti” by Scott Wiseman is on display in Santa Fe.

“Krampus metes out punishment,” Stutzman said. “He whips the kids, he spanks the kids. His story ensures the kids are well-behaved all year. The possibilities are endless in terms of what Krampus can do to ruin Christmas.”

For Fiestas, Stutzman merged Krampus with Zozobra.

“I had been carrying around this weird pink hair for ages, and I thought, ‘It’s there for a reason,’ ” she said.

“People in Santa Fe are used to odd characters.”

Wiseman grew up in Santa Fe consumed with all things Zozo.

“I was just one of those kids that got bit with Zozobra fever,” he said. “It involves making as many Zozobras as you could at any time of the year.”

Wiseman crafted Zozos from paper towel rolls and performed in the annual arson as a “gloomie” character for three years.

This year, he’s busy sculpting Zozobra’s 8- to 10-foott hands from welded fence material. He’s chosen a black and red manicure.

“Zozasso,” a Picasso-inspired Zozobra in pen and ink, by Scott Wiseman.

“Zozasso,” a Picasso-inspired Zozobra in pen and ink, by Scott Wiseman.

His pen and ink of the puppet with the overbite rings some familiar notes for anyone who has seen a Picasso painting. One eye twists toward the other, his nose extrudes over the corner of his lips. His arm zigzags around his head.

“It was inspired by a series of artwork that Picasso did of a lady in an armchair” in the ’40s, he said.

Each year, organizers have chosen a decade for an annual theme; this year’s decade is the 1940s.

It all started in 1924 when Santa Fe artist Will Shuster created the 50-foot-tall marionette monster to torch away woes at the end of summer. With his chomping jaws, bat-like ears and skull-like head, he moans and groans his way through incineration annually. This year, visitors to El Museo can stuff their glooms (old mortgages, police records, divorce papers) into a corner of his dress to watch them burn with the golden glow of the city’s aspens.

Kiwanis members moved the art show into El Museo four years ago. The show also features 400 local children’s submissions, Wiseman said.