Nicholas Herrera started life as a mischievous, dyslexic boy, born into one of the old Spanish families of New Mexico. Bad teachers and poor schooling helped him to lose himself in drugs, drinking, riding motorcycles and driving fast cars. A near-death experience, a wonderful mother and a fascination with making art saved him. Today Nicholas Herrera is one of the most noted Santeros in the US. His work is displayed in folk-art galleries across the country and is collected by the Smithsonian. He is noted for the ...
Nicholas Herrera started life as a mischievous, dyslexic boy, born into one of the old Spanish families of New Mexico. Bad teachers and poor schooling helped him to lose himself in drugs, drinking, riding motorcycles and driving fast cars. A near-death experience, a wonderful mother and a fascination with making art saved him. Today Nicholas Herrera is one of the most noted Santeros in the US. His work is displayed in folk-art galleries across the country and is collected by the Smithsonian. He is noted for the highly personal, political nature of his work and his innovative treatment of what can sometimes be a rather bland art form designed to sell to tourists. His work is intensely personal and even confessional. A survivor of alcoholism and drug addiction, which almost led to his death in a terrible car crash, Herrera is now sober and remarkably productive. His art is his life and his life is his art. Extraordinarily charismatic, Herrera is the grandson, nephew and son of artists. His young daughter is now following in his footsteps.
The subtitle of New Mexican folk artist Herrera's autobiography (told to and written by Amado) isn't hyperbole: even Herrera's mother wasn't sure he would survive his wild and self-destructive teenage years during the 1960s ("If he makes it to twenty-five he'll make it," she says). Herrera does make it—barely. After emerging from a coma following an alcohol-related car accident, Herrera devotes his life to creating art, following in the footsteps of his great-uncle, a "santero" who created statues of saints. Herrera's folk art sculptures are all his own, however, blending religious iconography with imagery from contemporary Hispanic and biker culture, as well as social and political commentary (the striking The Three Kings shows the Holy Family fleeing Herod on an eight-cylinder "trike" motorcycle). Never minimizing the gravity of Herrera's struggles, the book makes clear the concrete impact that art can have. Ages 10–up. (June)
- Kelly Czarnecki
It is hard to say what would have happened to Herrera without his art. Through most of his teen years he lived a wild lifestyle in New Mexico where he frequently drank, smoked marijuana, and consistently pushed limits in dangerous ways. At age twenty, he was involved in a near fatal car accident. Finally, he made a conscious choice to live a healthier lifestyle. Teens who have a lot of energy and have not figured out what to do with it or are intrigued by artists depicting saints or people that have died will be interested in this book. Color photographs are sprinkled generously throughout, showing the variety of art Herrera makes?from paintings to sculpture using vintage cars. While his art is shown as something that saved him, it has also made a difference in the lives of others. The text reads like an interview so that young readers can easily relate to Herrera. His art is shown as something that he loves and is good at, but it is also work since he makes money selling it, and it takes time to make his creations. It would have been helpful if resources were included for young readers on how to get started with sculpture, welding, or other similar skills that were showcased throughout the book. Reviewer: Kelly Czarnecki
- Shawn Buckenmeyer
Nicholas Herrera is a prolific folk artist and one of the most well-known Santeros, artists who create images of saints and other religious figures, in the United States. This is a well done autobiography about a man who defeats his demons with art. Herrera lived a life of drugs, alcohol, and danger; and was headed straight for tragedy. A horrible accident pulled him from the brink and his art saved him. This is an easy read filled with personal stories dealing with his life, his views of art, politics, drugs, and more. Beautiful photographs by John T. Denne give the reader insight into the art and mind of the artist. For those who are interested in folk art and a compelling story about the impact art can make on a person's life this is highly recommended. Reviewer: Shawn Buckenmeyer
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—It's a fortunate teenager who will come across this beautifully produced art book and its subject, self-taught folk-artist Nicholas Herrera. Not only does he describe his creative process, inspirations, and technique, but he also speaks frankly about his wild youth, bad behavior, and the consequences thereof. Using found materials, including parts of cars and motorcycles, he creates vivid sculptures full of drama and danger. Whether cautioning viewers against such vices as alcohol and drug use, calling attention to situations that he finds unjust, or telling stories from his own life and the lives of his friends, Herrera's work is strong, masculine, and attention-grabbing. The vocabulary and sentence structure are simple and declarative, matching the strong colors and blocky shapes of the art. Photographs of Herrera, his work, his surroundings, and the people who have influenced him keep the book grounded in the real world. The book's weak spot-though not a critical one-is its organization, which darts from Herrera's beliefs about water rights to his love of automobiles or to his daughter, for example, with no transitions and no section heads. An exceptional book, especially for schools with a strong art program, any manner of focus on folk- and traditionally inspired art, or Latino students.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
Product dimensions: 9.60 (w) x 11.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)
Meet the Author
Nicholas Herrera is one of the best-known folk artists working in the United States today. His art is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art, the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City, the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, the Regis University Collection of New Mexican Santos in Denver, the Taylor Museum in Colorado Springs, the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, and the Harwood Museum in Taos. His work has been exhibited in New York, Paris, Chicago, Baltimore, Denver, Pueblo and Santa Fe.
John T. Denne is a photographer who lives and works in New Mexico.
Elisa Amado is a Guatemalan-born author and translator who lives in Toronto.