The Gainesville Sun Article (2) January 24th, 2009
“Saints of Wood”
Inspire Folk Art Show
Gainesville’s Man Collection Returns to Central Florida
By: Dave Schlenker
Gainesville-based gallery owner Héctor Puig has an extensive collection of Saints of wood carved by Artisans from his native Puerto Rico. Works from his beloved collection have been shown in museums & galleries from Philadelphia to Texas to Puerto Rico.
Last week, the Webber Center Gallery at Central Florida Community College opened “Faith, Devotion & Mysticism of Puerto Rican Santos de Palo”, an exhibit showcasing about 80 pieces in Puig’s collection.
The works depict Saints and sacred figures in Catholicism. The collection at the Webber Center Includes works from the 18th century to the present, and common themes include the Three Kings, the Holy Trinity and the Montserrat –a seated Virgin with the Christ Child seated on her lap.
Santos Puerto Rico
Los Tres Santos Reyes by Eleno Cajigas
Here you will find Santa Elena, Our Lady of Guadalupe, San Expedito and many dramatic depictions of Jesus on the Cross. The art is rich in detail, narrative and color. But Puig’s passion for Santos lies not only with the ancient stories depicted in cedar and mahogany (among other woods), but with the carvers themselves- the santeros.
The works, Puig said, “mirror the sincerity and purity of the artists… their personal sense of spirituality.” In collecting these pieces, Puig has developed strong friendships with many of them, some of whom are pictured in the Webber Center exhibit. “When I travel to Puerto Rico, I visit the actual homes of the santeros”, said Puig, who travels to the island several times a year.
“They are friends; they are like family.” Puig started collecting the figures after 1997, when a friend introduced him to a santero from New Mexico. It was at that time that the art piqued his interest about the works created in his native Puerto Rico, which he left when he had just turned 13 years old.
Upon returning to Puerto Rico many years later, he realized the tradition still existed and the artists were just as passionate. Puig said some collectors only acquire works carved before 1925, when they were “made out of total devotion and no commercial or artistic interest”. But in getting to know & visit some contemporary carvers, real santeros moved by their faith and calling to this art form, it became clear some of today’s carvers still hold deep, personal connections to their works.
These santeros have turned down big offers, Puig said, and are reluctant to sell their pieces to just anyone. As such, side by side, works from contemporary santeros “evoke the same energy, spirituality and presence” as the pieces created before 1925, Puig maintains.
Santos Puerto Rico
San Expedito by José Roman
This notion was key for Webber Center Curator Molly Moody, who, with Puig’s help, installed the exhibit in Ocala. Her goal, she said, was to mix the old works with the contemporary pieces In the same gently lit encased displays. “The goal of any exhibition I present, is to show the trajectory of old Santos all the way up to the ones being carved today”, added Puig, who also owns the eclectic héctor framing & gallery (University Picture Framers) in Gainesville. Part of his collection was on display at the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville several years ago.
The Ocala exhibit opened last week but has been in the works for two years, said Joleen Gonzalez, the Webber Center’s former exhibit’s coordinator and now a continuing education coordinator for CFCC in Levy County. Gainesville photographer Randy Batista introduced Gonzalez to Puig, who being Puerto Rican herself, said her “ears perked up” upon hearing of Puig’s Santos collection. “I thought it really related well to many courses offered at CFCC”, Gonzalez said this week.
Santos originated in Puerto Rico in the 16th century when Spain colonized the island. The exhibit, which also includes a collection of hand carved tools by the santeros and Framed vintage prints with Santos themes owned by Puig, continues at the Webber Center until February 20th.
framing for posters, diplomas, mirrors, family photos and glass replacement