NMSU Art Museum unveils “Saint Joseph & The Laborers” retablo exhibit


Santana Ochoa

A new exhibit titled “Saint Joseph & The Laborers” is available at the University Art Museum until August.

The New Mexico State University Art Museum unveiled its newest retablo exhibit “Saint Joseph & The Laborers” last week.

Curated by graduate student Courtney Uldirch, the exhibit’s debut is in the Margie and Bobby Rankin Retablo Gallery. According to the University Museum, the exhibition consists of Mexican retablos that depict Catholic saints and “key labors.”

NMSU has a collection of 1,700 retablos, which is the most extensive collection in the United States, according to the NMSU University Art Museum website. A retablo is a depiction of saints, religious personages, or votive offerings painted on small sheets of tin-coated iron.

Santana Ochoa

The “Saint Joseph & The Laborers” exhibit is the second retablo exhibit to be featured in the art museum’s new campus building, Uldrich said.

“This is my second retablo exhibition. I’ve been lucky enough to curate for the UAM, but this is also only the second retablo exhibition that has been curated in the new building, within the Margie and Bobby Rankin Retablo Gallery,” Uldrich said.

Uldrich said the retablos “display a variety of colors, style, and technique in the way that they represent the subject.”

Uldrich also explained the historical significance behind the retablos.

“Each of these saints are unique, and this exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about some of the lesser-known saints that are still so meaningful to the Catholic faith and prominently explored in Mexican retablos.” Uldrich said.” I think it’s really a special moment to connect with these retablos and feel the spiritual weight and historical significance that they have held for centuries.”

Nathalie Fernando, a fashion design and merchandising major at NMSU, came to the exhibit with her mother because of her Catholic faith.

“We really like to hear about the saint’s biographies and kind of glad that NMSU provides the information [of] them,” Fernando said. “I didn’t know it was going to be this small, but it was nice, though. It’s nice to just kind of see some of that.”

Fernando believes that art is “important because it helps a person to express themselves, especially, the way they take art from something that’s been done, but they capture it in a modern way, and they express it in their voice,”

Santana Ochoa



UAM offers free workshops through OutsmART with “the mission to expose children to art through exploration and play through workshops,” according to UAM’s website. Uldrich helped to create a workshop to go along with the exhibit where participants made retablos at home.

“Joseph’s Feast Day” is UAM’s next workshop event. It will be a “community-sourced collection of homemade altars built by confined families all over the world,” Uldrich mentioned.

Anyone can submit a photo of their altar, which can include retablos, photographs, food offerings, rosaries, Milagros, or other materials that may connect to stories of surviving COVID-19, struggles with illness, or hardship and other journeys associated with labor.

The photos of completed alters may be sent to the UAM’s email from March 1 to March 18. Submissions will be posted on the University Art Museum Instagram on Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum is only allowing ten people into the museum in 30-minute intervals and two people at one time in the exhibit itself. The museum is only open from Wednesdays through Saturdays from 12 to 4 p.m. with a timed ticket.

The “Saint Joseph & The Laborers” exhibit will be available until the end of August.

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