Outsider / folk artist Nicholas Herrera is as 15th generation New Mexican whose ancestors were among the early Spanish settlers to arrive in the state in the late 1500s. After stints in Santa Fe, Santa Cruz and Abiquiu, Herrera’s relatives settled in El Rito in the 1820s on a 40 acre homestead, which Herrera continues to occupy today as his home, studio and showroom. El Rito is a small, rural community about twenty miles northwest of Espanola. The journey down State Highway 554 to this outlying town is picturesque; you drive towards the looming Sangre de Cristo Mountains and eventually wind into the heart of El Rito, which is identified by artist studios and local landmarks including Martin’s Store and El Farolito Restaurant.
About two miles from Martin’s Store is Herrera’s studio, recognized by a homemade sign on the side of the road that reads NICHOLAS HERRERA ARTE. Herrera’s yard is dotted with recycled metal sculptures including “La Percha de Abuelita,” a clothes line with garments made from car hoods, doors and other repurposed materials.
The showroom was built by Herrera’s grandfather in traditional adobe and piñon cedar. A kiva fireplace, mud floors and low ceilings give the space an authentic southwest feel and accentuate the character of Herrera’s folk art.
Across the courtyard is his studio, which opens into a large room supported by a centered wooden beam which Herrera has covered with photos and inspirational mementos.
Herrera is known as a modern-day Santero, or maker of religious images, due to his unique interpretations of religious themes. He uses natural pigments to paint his innately hand-carved pieces, including “San Isidro” and “St. Francis Preaches to the Birds.” Herrera’s work often depicts icons from his Catholic faith connected with the hardships of minorities and rural life, which Herrera has personally overcome through his art. Herrera also uses his work as a platform to address current social and political issues. “I want people to think about what’s going on in the world,” says the artist. “I don’t hold back with my art; I just do what I want to do.”
San Isidro (left) & St Francis Preaches to the Birds (right)
Herrera’s latest work will be on display for our Spanish Market Group Show opening July 28th, 5-7pm. Click here to browse his current inventory.