It’s always a treat to step outside the doors of La Fonda and wade into the crowd of Spanish Market artists and visitors. This year was no exception and the market provided a surprise in the form of a new category – Innovation Within Tradition. The new category allows traditional artists to introduce some contemporary themes into their work. The guidelines are stringent – requiring the techniques or processes the artist uses to remain traditional but allows exploration within the content of their work. Gustavo Victor Goler, a traditional bultos and retablos artist added some whimsy to his work this year to the delight of visitors and the Spanish Market judges. His San Cristóbal won first place in the Innovation within Tradition category depicting San Cristóbal on a surf board. San Cristóbal (Saint Christopher) is commonly known as the patron saint of travelers, but in digging deeper, Goler found that surfers claim him as the patron saint of surfing.
Another interesting phenomenon that many artists noticed this year was a change in crowd activity. Over the years, it was not uncommon for crowds to descend on the market at 8am on Saturday and buy up the most popular and/or award-winning artists’ work. Over the last three years, however, the economy has influenced buyer behavior. Collectors are being choosier and taking their time in buying pieces. This has allowed many artists the ability to have inventory for the entire weekend, relax and enjoy talking and selling for the full two-days of the market instead of the frenzied and chaotic couple of hours at the market opening. Lorrie Aguilar-Sjoberg, an encrusted straw artist, lowered her prices this year in response to the slow economy. Lorrie would rather have patrons be able to afford the piece they really want and take it home and enjoy it. She’s fortunate to have low overhead – buying the wood she uses for her crosses in bulk and growing her own straw.
Just down the row from Lorrie, devotional artist Tim Lucero displayed his retablos. Tim showed his work for many years in the Youth Market and was mentored during that time by Lorrie’s father, santero Filimón Aguilar, now retired. The Youth Market is another fun element to Spanish Market and allows the youngest generation a way to not only learn from experienced artists, but also display their work – going through a similar jury process as their Traditional Spanish Market elders. This is Tim’s second year showing as an adult. Last year Tim won third place in the Small Retablo category. This year he won an honorable mention in the new category, Innovation Within Tradition. He’s inspired by the work being done by other artists in this category and looking forward to exploring it more in his work for next year.
Spanish Market offers art lovers a chance to explore the evolution of an art form – from youth learning traditions to a new generation of artists expanding the definition of traditional Spanish art to the masters creating exquisite pieces of devotion. We are fortunate to have it all unfold right outside our door every summer.