EL RITO, NEW MEXICO
Photograph by John Denne, 1999
Nicholas Herrera, the El Rito Santero from the remote mountain village El Rito not far from Abiquiu, the famous domicile of Georgia O'Keefe, is the beloved and controversial "outsider artist", the "cool vato" in the well-connected guild of New Mexico Santeros. Deeply religious and irreverent, hot-headed and generous, funny and angry, he confronts the viewer with his view of God and the world in a way that touches you and restores your faith in humanity. About his art he says: " I don't hold back in my work because of tradition. I make that which has never been made before and I will use whatever it takes to make a point." And about his mission: "God intervened. He brought me back to life to be a Santero." (Jorg W. Ludwig, 2014. "Saints from a Land So Remote")
Nicholas was introduced to art at a very young age by his family who strongly encouraged him to study art and make wonderful things with his hands. Since 1996, he has continued to develop the skills necessary to follow his dreams, that of making Spanish Colonial Art. Inspired by the historical pieces of Art that are avialable throughout New Mexico and as a 15th generation New Mexican, he's studied what would be considered the great artists of Colonial New Mexico. Their use of natural pigments, local items and some inginuity has taught him to do the same - Nicholas uses vivid colors and aspires to make each piece unique in giving a true representation of his values and traditional beliefs. Nicholas explores ideas that are not always socially comfortable. Nicholas is a product of his rural upbringing and community. He is the El Rito Santero!