IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
A Map of Santa Fe’s Most Vibrant Communities
In 2005, Santa Fe was chosen by UNESCO as the first Creative City in the United States. Historically, Santa Fe functioned as a fulcrum for artistic traditions, a place to share ideas, stories, methodology, and culture. This year Heritage Inspirations has designed tours that will take you behind the scenes to introduce you to the people, cuisine, and landscape that have inspired our most beloved festivals and markets.
You may join us on the ¡Viva la Cultura! High Road Artist Studio Tour, where we travel along the storied high road to Taos, visiting the artists and cultural sites that have sustained Spanish Market. In the evening, you may want to treat your family or executive team to a Private Vault Dinner at the Spanish Colonial Art Museum. Our Gardens + Galleries E-Bike tours explore Santa Fe’s rambling adobe neighborhoods, Canyon Road, and Museum Hill. If walking is more your style, our personable and knowledgeable guides will lead you on an in depth walking tour of Santa Fe’s Churches. And if you want to feast while you learn, Chef Tanya Story will inspire you in her Professional Kitchen located on the edge of the Historical Community of Agua Fria.
Whether you are marveling at the Santos of Spanish Market, discovering contemporary art at Indian Market, Santa Fe, or sitting down to a traditional feast, you will be revitalized by our rich culture.
Dive into the magic of our dazzling festivals
Surrounded By Saints
A Conversation with New Mexico Santero + Conservator Victor Goler
and H.I.enthusiast Anee Ward
Throughout his 35 year career, Victor Goler has evolved as a Santero (a person who makes religious images in the southwest US) and a studied conservator of New Mexico Art. His artistry fuses Santero traditions with contemporary relevance. Always with the deepest reverence for religious iconography, Goler might surprise us with the Holy Family cruising in a Lowrider.
Goler has been an award winning artist at Spanish Market, Santa Fe and currently sits on the Board and Collections committee of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society. A true New Mexico treasure, Heritage Inspirations has been honored to collaborate with Victor Goler and call him a friend.
Anee: Can you tell me about your family, and how their background as conservators influenced you?
Victor: When my father passed away my uncles took over the conservator studios. So, I went to work for them. By the time I was thirteen they were teaching me to carve a little bit. Basically, how to use the tools, not a face or anything like that. Rough shapes, they saw I had the knack for it, I started carving and replacing fingers on Saints.
Anee: That doesn’t sound easy…
Victor: I guess even when I was young I was always making boxes and my own toys. And my uncles thought, “we could use you over here.” So I started working on furniture, anything wood oriented. It was a natural extension of who I was. In high school I was freelancing a lot: making signs, painting on cabinets, architectural drawings, etc.
Anee: That sounds very entrepreneurial.
Victor: I was always entrepreneurial and had a single mother. So I think It was unique to my personality. I was brought up Catholic so I always had an interest in Saint making, I did a few carvings a year for friends and family. When I was 23 I graduated from college in graphics, design, and advertising. I grew up with a lot of artists around me in the conservation world and with antiquities. I saw how artists were always struggling, how hard it was to make it. I thought I didn’t want to be an artist so I opened a small conservation studio in Santa Fe. My first effort as my own business.
One Christmas, I made a few retablos for people who were supporting the studio. Everyone, including my family, was very encouraging. My sister helped me set up a show, and it was quite successful. Then, I was kind of at a crossroads.
I wanted to cut my overhead and get away from the distractions of Santa Fe, so I moved to Taos, also to ski a little bit. After meeting with Irving Couse I moved into one of the Couse historic studios on a work-trade. At the age of 24, I started the process of figuring out if I wanted to work as an artist or a conservator. And decided to work on those passions together. Things started to work out quickly.
I learned a lot from the collectors who were asking me to do conservation work. I realized the careers were complimentary. My indepth research as a conservator helped me analyze the pieces I was creating and iconography that inspired them
Eventually I moved to the Joseph Sharp studio for five years. The only heat was a wood burning stove. It was a memorable experience for me and that is where I got my legs underneath me as an artist.
I also ended up working for Larry Frank, a long-time Taos collector, for twenty years. The commitment from my collectors and conservation clients enhanced my life and fortified my endeavors. The relationships have lasted over 30 years.
Both careers are still very complimentary. The conservation work has given me a deep comprehension of the iconography, and helped me understand the patronage of the Saints and how to make them relevant to the contemporary sensibility of collectors. There is a lot of intense research and collaboration with my collectors. There is a patron saint for just about everything. I emphasize certain elements. Saint Raphael, patron Saint of Medicine, may be featured with a heart, as an emphasis for a Cardiologist . Another might feature the miraculous image of Mary on a bicycle with the Christ child in a buggy, Madonna de Ghisallo, patron Saint of cyclists.
Anee: Have you received criticism for this contemporary perspective?
Victor: The path has been fulfilling for me. I like to evolve as an artist. My art has been well received. Still, anyone can come through, and say “Hey what is going on here?” But I never do anything sacrilegious, it is always in keeping with the iconography. A perfect example is putting the holy family in a lowrider, which also relates to New Mexico. The piece appeals to people who relate to the traditions, but also to those who like lowriders. I could have plateaued. It’s always a risk. I could always lose clients, or create a failure. There are works in the dark corners of my studio that I have never completed.
Anee: Tell me about your history with Spanish Market.
Victor: When I first applied you had to prove you were 25% Hispanic. I was born in Argentina, arrived in the US when I was seven years old, and grew up in Santa Fe. After much discussion as to whether or not I met the requirements, I was admitted for one year.
Supporters of Spanish Market encouraged me to write a letter so I could apply to future markets. I started reading everything I could about Santeros for six months. I began to understand that not all Santeros were from New Mexico both historically or currently. I discovered there has always been a history of migrating artistic traditions in New Mexico. After I submitted my essay, I was grandfathered back in.
I was inspired to be the best Santero I could become both in skill and knowledge. I began to win awards. I have always been highly supportive of Spanish Market. I am on the Board, and I am on the Collections Committee. They play important roles in preserving traditions, they go beyond to support artists. They are an important institution.
Anee: How has your life as an artist influenced your outlook on the world?
Victor: I have been a professional full time artist for 35 years. There has been much ebb and flow along the way. I started when I was 23, and that was before I was aware of how much economic diversity there is in this field. I see myself now, and journey in between, and how things have worked out. To make a living at something I love, reflecting so many aspects of New Mexico spiritual, religious, historical. So many memories: working in the Couse and Sharp studios, the friends I made, participating in community projects, and still having a chance to mountain bike and ski. And I am constantly surrounded by Saints, they are always looking at me, even from the backseat of my car. Would I have done things differently? It has been a gratifying journey and I don’t take it for granted.