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One of the most far-reaching exhibits of New Mexico animal wood carvings, “Wooden Menagerie: Made in New Mexico,” debuts at the Museum of International Folk Art on April 6 with 107 artworks made by such masters as Felipe Archuleta, Patrociñio Barela, and José Dolores López. The exhibition runs through Feb. 15, 2015.
The artworks range from narrative-to-abstracted in style, and include birds, reptiles, fish, cattle, an alligator that is almost smiling and a whimsical blue deer. These mixed-media carvings were created from elm and cottonwood along with glass marbles, leftover yellow paint from painting highway lines (utilized by Archuleta for a cheetah), broom bristles, dog hair (it is said that Archuleta would befriend stray dogs if he needed hair for, perhaps, a bear carving), rope, metal, leather, nails, sawdust and wood shavings.
Animal woodcarving is a Hispano tradition going back to the 1700s in New Mexico.
The exhibit is divided into several sections. The early-to-mid 1900s “Heritage” focuses on the works of Celso Gallegos, Jóse Dolores López, and famed modernist Patrociñio Barela. According to MOIFA guest curator Andrew John Cecil, who has been working on the show for almost a year, “Barela was the first Hispano woodcarver lionized by the contemporary art world.”
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