Gallery features `Santitos'

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Retablos, bultos, crosses and more are on exhibit this month at Chicano Humanities and Arts Council in Denver's Santa Fe Arts District.

“For generations, Hispanic villagers of New Mexico and southern Colorado have created Santos — religious images of Catholic Christian saints and Biblical scenes,” said curator Santero Ronn Miera. “They used them in their homes, churches and private chapels to aid in worship and for adornment ….”

“Santitos” is the name of the 12th annual group show of traditional and contemporary santos and crosses at the CHAC Gallery, 772 Santa Fe Drive.

Participating artists include Teresa Duran of Arvada; Jose Esquibel, Littleton; Lynn Fresquez and Vanessa Fresquez, Denver; Ronn Miera, Brighton; and Carlos Santistevan y Familia, Denver.

Master Santero Santistevan and his award-winning children Carlos Santistevan Jr. and Brigida Montes have created a family display

Paintings and statues came up the Camino Real from Mexico with the first colonists to New Mexico in 1598 such as Don Juan de Onate. Between 30 and 50 mission churches were established. Early images were oil paintings, which could be rolled to travel, but local artists began to carve and paint wooden images and altar screens.

Today's santeros and santeras use many of the same materials their ancestors did — carving, finishing and sometimes painting to tell traditional stories.

A Santito or Benedito is a small blessing given to a person who is headed out on a journey, Miera said. Usually, they were made by a parent or grandparent.

Esquibel, a scholar in the field, will talk at 1 p.m. April 20 about “Modern Usage of Santos.” He says we can use santos to enhance people's lives. They can reconnect us to each other … ease pain and sorrow of this time and the circumstance in which we live.

Modern usage is described as (1) Use of santos as a surrogate for our presence. (2) Use as teaching aids and devices. (3) Use to express a profound sentiment that cannot be expressed in any other way. (4) To celebrate accomplishments or mark significant public events. He will give examples and encourage conversation.

He said he is tending the gallery on Saturdays. Visitors will find a friendly and knowledgeable source of information if they stop to ask questions about subjects or techniques.

If you go

The CHAC Gallery is at 772 Santa Fe Drive in the Arts District. The “Santitos” exhibit runs until April 27. 303-571-0440.

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