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Transforming Images: New Mexican Santos in-between Worlds

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“Style” has been one of the cornerstones not only of the modern discipline of art history but also of social and cultural history. In this volume, the writers consider the inadequacy of the concept of style as essential to a person, people, place, or period. While the subject matter of this book is specific to religious practices and artifacts from New Mexico between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, the implications of these investigations are far reaching historically, methodologically, and theoretically.

The essays collected here explore the Catholic instruments of religious devotion produced in New Mexico from around 1760 until the radical transformation of the tradition in the twentieth century. The writers in this volume make three key arguments. First, they make a case for bringing new theoretical perspectives and research strategies to bear on the New Mexican materials and other colonial contexts. Second, they demonstrate that the New Mexican materials provide an excellent case study for rethinking many of the most fundamental questions in art-historical and anthropological study. Third, the authors collectively argue that the New Mexican images had, and still have, importance to diverse audiences and makers.

The distinctiveness of New Mexican santos consists not only in their subjects (which conformed to Catholic Reformation tastes) but also in elements that may appear to have been “merely decorative”: graphically striking and frequently elaborate abstract design motifs and landscape references. Despite their anonymity, the images are, as a group, readily distinguished from local products anywhere else in the Spanish colonial world. This distinctiveness suggests that we should inquire not so much about the individual identities of their makers as about the collective identity of the society and place that produced and used them.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271026909
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Claire Farago is Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is the author of Leonardo Da Vinci' ‚"Paragone": A Critical Interpretation with a New Edition of the Text in the Codex Urbinas (1992).

Donna Pierce is Curator of Spanish Colonial Art at the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in Santa Fe. She is co-author of Cambrios: The Spirit of Transformation in Spanish Colonial Art (1992) and Spanish New Mexico: The Spanish Colonial Arts Society Collection (1996).

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Table of Contents





1. Problems for Interpretation

Mediating Ethnicity and Culture

The Semiotics of Images

Reception of Sources in New Mexico

Interleaf A: Political Allusions

2. Reconstructing Ethnicity

Formative Era, 1693–1700

Dynamic Ethnicity in Eighteenth Century

Interleaf B: Research and Human Genome

Hybrid Households

3. Christian Icons, Theory and History

The Early Santeros

Interleaf C: The Life of an Artist

Hide Painting: Archival Evidence

Hide Paintings, Sources

Transforming Images

Interleaf D: Sound, Image, Identity

4. Inventing Modern Identities

Competing Religious Discourses

Tradition Reconfigured

Problems of Attribution

Santos in Contemporary Life

Interleaf E: Catholicism and Pueblos

5. Epilogue

Re(f)using Art


Consolidated Bibliography


Photo Credits


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