Photos by Mel Fenson







Death Cart
Jay Seale
Cottonwood, Cloth, Grass

Archangel Michael
Jay Seale
Bass Wood, Oil Paint,
Metal Wor
k, Gold Leaf

Top Right:
Man of Sorrow
Jay Seale
Oil Paint on Plaster, Wood,
Gold Leaf

Above Right:
Death Cart with Three Skulls
Jay Seale
Cottonwood, Tempra Paint

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
Jerry Vigil
Wood, Acrylic Paint

Above Right:
Blue Crucifix
Jay Seale
Sugar Pine, Tempera Paint,
Copper, Gold

Bultos from
Taylor Museum Collection

These outstanding examples of Santos were photographed at a recent exhibit at the Loveland Museum/Gallery, in Loveland, Colorado.

The exhibit represented the work of a number of contemporary artists, as well as some historical examples.

Santos are painted or carved religious images that portray God, the Virgin Mary, the angels and the saints. The images, which had their origins in Medieval Europe, were brought to the Americas around four hundred years ago by explorers from Spain, Portugal, and Europe.

By the late 17th century, the tradition of the Santos art form was further expanded as distinctive regional styles and subjects developed throughout New Mexico, Central America, South America, the Philippines and other regions of the new world where Spanish or Portuguese influence spread.

Santos are created in two art forms: retablos, which are images of saints painted on flat pieces of wood and bultos, which are three-dimensional representations of religious figures that are carved and sometimes painted. They were displayed on the walls of churches and moradas and in private homes.

Hand-hewn retablo panels were traditionally crafted from local woods, such as pine. After a panel was cut and shaped, gesso made from gypsum was applied. After the gesso dried, images were painted, using natural pigments made from plants, minerals, insects, and ochres. Brushes were made from yucca fibers, horse hair and human hair. The retablo was then sealed with a native resin varnish, such as the sap from a piñón tree. Before pine panels became widely used, retablos were painted on buffalo, deer, and elk hides.

Bultos were traditionally carved from indigenous woods, such as cottonwood roots, aspen or pine, then gessoed, painted and sealed with the piñón sap varnish. Today, oil or acrylic paints, as well as manufactured varnishes are also used.

Most santeros and santeras have been self-taught, but some have learned their skills as apprentices to masters. Santeros and santeras consider their work on retablos and bultos to be an act of devotion.