Finding the "Picasso Santero"
If one is meandering down Santa Fe’s Riverwalk (“Wait a minute …we’ve got a river?”) which, in this instance, is the stretch of East Alameda between Paseo and Sandoval--- you would come upon a glorious sight across from the Cathedral…The Seven Archangels as re-imagined and carved by Artist Jose A. Lucero, known as the “Picasso Santero.” Incidentally, walking always provides glimpses of many wondrous things here in Santa Fe that may often be missed when whizzing past in a car. Those students of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” may note that today there are six, not seven, Angels. More on that in a bit!
ArtHub of Santa Fe has had a great interest in this project since they were installed years ago. The Seven Archangels were commissioned and installed in 2004, after the City of Santa Fe Arts and Culture Department sought out qualified woodworkers to create on-site woodcarvings in the Park. Previously, many of the cottonwood trees in that location were designated as diseased and/or dying and thus were slated for removal.
Enter Jose A. Lucero. His deep roots in our community and connection with the land merge with his traditional Spanish Colonial style culminating in awe-inspiring carvings, paintings, and retablo…which is a devotional painting derived from traditional Catholic Church iconography. A native of Santa Fe, Mr. Lucero, has been featured in Spanish Market since 1997. His work is featured in the Spanish Colonial Arts Museum locally, as well as several private and museum collections around the world.
The Archangels have become an iconic cultural phenomenon. Foot traffic and social media presence have propelled them to global recognition. Since 2005, Lucero's carvings have kept a watchful eye on the City Different. In 2011, the statues were taken to Lucero's house and an initial round of renovations was completed. Cement bases were also added after the angels received their touch-up. Lucero makes the naturally-derived paint out of walnut shells, ochres, and other natural materials he gathers from the mountains around his home. Further, he believes in leaving something for the tree as payment for giving him the materials necessary (Archangels, Photo courtesy of Jennifer R)
In August, Salathiel, one of the Archangels succumbed to the rigors of desert living and came down…crumbled… overnight. This solves the mystery of the missing seventh Angel. It was decided that restoration work on the remaining carvings would be needed very quickly. Lucero began work restoring the Archangels yet again in September. He has had plenty of company, plenty of good weather, plenty of questions, plenty of advice from various “Sidewalk
Superintendents.” He has even been gifted a gallon of preservative provided through a kind donation from some caring folks at the El Castillo Life Community behind the Park.
What about our fallen angel? First, in some Orthodox traditions, Salathiel the Archangel is said to help people interpret dreams, break addictions, protect children, preside over exorcisms, and rule over music in heaven; but most importantly, presents the prayers of people to God. Salathiel, the carving, is set to be replaced as soon as a suitable log or tree trunk can be found; not as simple a task as one might assume since a non-rotted, 3’ in diameter, and 6 to 8’ long log is needed. The city of Santa Fe states on their website that they seek funding to replace one angel per year in the coming years. Santa Fe’s Arts and Culture Department is working with Mr. Lucero to launch a campaign to raise funds for a new sculpture of Salathiel. It is the Department’s hope to replace an angel every year
Photos Courtesy of Jose A. Lucero
Jose with an image of Salathiel where it will eventually reside (below, first image). Salathiel 1 in better days (below, second image).
For information on Jose’s other work look to arthubofsantafe.com
very soon. For more information on donating to the restoration efforts feel free to call ArtHub of Santa Fe at 843-817-6846 and we will direct you to the correct place
BTW---Did you know that… Seven archangels correspond to days of the week: Michael (Sunday), Gabriel (Monday), Uriel (Tuesday), Raphael (Wednesday), Selaphiel (Thursday), Raguel or Jegudiel (Friday), and Barachiel (Saturday)