BY CARRIE B. MORITOMO
Edward Gonzales, one of New Mexico’s most popular and beloved artists, is among the seven artists and arts supporters to be honored with the 2013 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts. An award-winning author and children’s-book illustrator, with an Albuquerque elementary school named for him, Gonzales has made significant contributions to education and the artistic representation of Hispanic culture through his art.“Reading . . . was critical to my becoming an artist,” Gonzales has said. “The art world was very distant from the one I live in. But books made the art world real and attainable for me.” His En La Cocina (How My Father Learned to Read) is one of his many paintings emphasizing the importance of literacy, education, and family. This painting, in the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s superb collection of his work, is also the basis of one of his popular posters promoting literacy. In 2006 Gonzales served as the National Education Association’s New Mexico honorary chair for Read Across America, and he was recognized by the American Association for Hispanics in Higher Education with the Outstanding Latino Cultural Arts Award.
Theresa Avila wrote of Gonzales in Caminos Distintos: Patrocinio Barela and Edward Gonzales in New Mexico, “As Edward Gonzales was growing up in New Mexico, his experiences with images of Hispanics included conquistadors wearing helmets, Mexicans with sombreros leaning against cactus, and romantic cowboys courting señoritas. . . . In reaction to these stereotypes and to illustrate that in reality Hispanic culture is diverse and complex, Edward Gonzales’s goal became to ‘educate society about the full history and cultural experience of Hispanics and the truthful portrayal of our people.’”
Gonzales was the first chairman of the annual Contemporary Hispanic Market in Santa Fe, which began in 1989, and in 1992 he led the initiative championed by the Organization of Hispanic Artists to create a Hispanic arts building at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds and participated in The Alcove Show, a group exhibition of Hispanic artists at the Museum of Fine Arts (now the New Mexico Museum of Art). Gonzales’s art has been exhibited throughout New Mexico and is represented in many permanent collections.
The New Mexico Museum of Art holds the work of another award winner in its collection. In 1963, at the age of twenty-one, Jim Wagner moved to Taos with one goal in mind—to become an artist. “Within a few years, Wagner himself was one of the leaders of a new breed of Taos artists, infected by the freewheeling spirit of the times, searching singular modes of expression and social relevance,” said Stephen Parks of Parks Gallery in Taos. “More than fifty years later, he’s regarded by many of his peers as the honored elder among Taos artists.” The beauty of Taos has been the subject of most of Wagner’s paintings. He captures the mountains, sky, and adobe architecture with touches of earlier times, such as clothes hanging on a line, chickens scratching in a yard, or a well house out back.
Wagner is also famed for his furniture, which he began designing and constructing in the 1980s. His chairs and chests (trasteros), inspired by the distinctive Taos furniture of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, are embellished with brightly painted motifs. In 1984 Wagner and a friend established Muebles, a program that educates and encourages former convicts and at-risk youth to follow a positive path in furniture-making and decoration. Muebles has been featured in New York Magazine and in a cover story in New Mexico Magazine. Wagner is the subject of Stephen Parks’s book, Jim Wagner: An American Artist.
Other 2013 award recipients are painter Darren Vigil Gray of Santa Fe, musician Jenny Vincent of Taos, ceramic artist and potter Frank Willett of Santa Fe, and major contributors to the arts Aria Finch of Roswell and the Mimbres Region Arts Council of Silver City. “New Mexico’s culture is anchored by our rich history of beautiful artwork and creativity,” said Governor Susana Martinez. “The talented artists and dedicated art supporters recognized as 2013 Governor’s Arts Awards honorees enrich the quality of life all New Mexicans enjoy.”
The Governor’s Arts Awards were established in 1974 by Governor Bruce King and First Lady Alice King to celebrate the extensive roles—both economic and cultural—that artists, craftspeople, and arts supporters play in the life of New Mexico. Past awardees include Maria Martinez, Tony Abeyta, Judy Chicago, Tony Hillerman, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jack Loeffler, N. Scott Momaday, Carmella Padilla, Luis Tapia, Jack Parsons, and Woody Gwyn.
The 2013 Governor’s Arts Awards ceremonies will be held on Friday evening, September 27, from 5:15 to 7:00 p.m. at St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art, in Santa Fe. The ceremony is preceded by an afternoon reception and exhibition opening from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Governor’s Gallery, on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. Both the awards ceremony and gallery reception are free and open to the public. The exhibition continues in the Governor’s Gallery through December 6, 2013.
Nominations for the awards are invited each year from arts groups and interested New Mexicans. All nominations are reviewed by a committee of the New Mexico Arts Commission, which sends its recommendations to the full commission and to the governor. The 2013 Awards Selection Committee consisted of New Mexico Arts Commission chair, Sherry Davis of Santa Fe; arts commissioners Charmay Allred of Santa Fe, JoAnn Balzer of Santa Fe, David Hinske of Taos, John Rohovec of Silver City, and Glenn Cutter of Mesilla (nonvoting); and Chuck Zimmer, manager of the state public art program for New Mexico Arts. Loie Fecteau, executive director of New Mexico Arts, served on the committee in a nonvoting capacity.
Carrie B. Moritomo is communications director for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.