Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cristo Crucificado

Seven Roads Gallery Private Collection

Psalm 22

Yea, dogs are round me;
a company of evil doers encircle me;
they have pierced my hands and feet-
I can count all my bones-
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my raiment they cast lots.

I've mentioned previously that I worked for a Mexican import store in Arizona. They specialized in furniture, jewelry, crafts and Mexican folk art. Many of their contacts were itinerant dealers who regularly traveled a circuit of stores in New Mexico and Arizona. It was and is a hard life. One such peddler was a man selling Navajo crafts. The owners of the store weren't interested in American Indian crafts-Arizona is besieged by Indian goods. As an intermediary, I was chosen to talk to the dealer and send him on his way. Looking at a pick-up truck filled with bows and arrows and other paraphernalia, I noticed this crucifix lying on the top of the pile of Navajo crafts. The dealer took it in trade for other goods. His disinterest in the piece was obvious. One arm was broken. The Cristo was attached to a dirty two by four cross. I was entranced and intrigued.

In restoring the piece, the challenge was to keep the integrity of the work intact while repairing defects. I removed the Cristo from the greasy 2X4. It was apparent that the carver found the most immediate section of lumber lying around. The grease on the cross came from an automobile or similar vehicle. The image-a board lying under a leaking truck. I found some clean, weathered lumber to replace the cross. The carving itself was very dirty. Carefully removing a layer of brown sludge, I was enthralled that the robe of Christ was a bright red with gold trim. His features appeared prominently once the overcoat was removed. Eyebrows, eye color, hair color leaped out at me. Many more details emerged once a careful cleaning ensued.

It is pure conjecture on my part, but I don't feel this Cristo came from a church. The artist is unknown. It was carved and abandoned for unknown reasons. Many Mexican folk art pieces are covered with mixtures of roof tar, stain, kerosene, motor oil and worse to give them an aged look. This may have been the artist's intention.

Restored, it belongs in a place which highlights both its art value and the religious significance.

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