Weaver steals the show

July 28, 2018

In a room full of art etched with culture and threaded with history, four textiles displayed a Chimayó family’s heritage.

Irvin Trujillo stood by his weaving on the back wall of an exhibit hall at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe as his wife, Lisa Trujillo, and daughter, Emily Trujillo, took his photo, framing the shot with the four ribbons hanging next to his piece.

Lisa Trujillo pointed out — with a mixture of pride and frustration — that her husband once again had stolen the show, a competition that included her own weavings, hanging nearby.

“I knew he would,” she said. “He’s been doing really complex pieces for years now, and I knew he’d beat me.”

As Santa Fe prepared for this weekend’s 67th annual Traditional Spanish Market on the downtown Plaza — where more than 200 adult and youth artists will show their works at nearly 150 booths — Irvin Trujillo, a longtime participant, was honored Friday evening with his fifth Best of Show award.

He won the market’s top prize with a piece titled Thinking Inside the Box. The piece also won first place in the weaving category and won a weaving award named after his father, master weaver Jake Ortega Trujillo.

Another piece by Irvin Trujillo, titled Mohair Moki, won the La Lana Weaving Award, recognizing a textile for innovative design and use of colors.

The Spanish Colonial Arts Society, which presents the market each year, selected winners in 37 traditional arts categories for adults and 19 categories for youth.

Irvin Trujillo, in discussing his winning piece, explained that while most artists are told to think outside the box, his weaving explores the concept of the box by going back to traditional roots.

“The box hasn’t been defined yet,” he said of his textile, which took eight months to create. “So we have to figure out the box before going outside.”

The intricate weaving, in hues of blue, green, orange and red, combined with natural tones, drew people in close to follow the complex, zigzagging patterns of the threads. From farther away, the colors form sharp angles that jut into one another. And in the center of the piece, the colorful threads create the illusion of a three-dimensional box, like layers of falling paper.

“This was a stellar piece,” said Nanci Benkof, one of five judges evaluating the art.

After hours of examining each piece and choosing winners in specific categories, she said, the judges reflected on which pieces outshined the rest.

“You had to become familiar with all the pieces, but there’s always a piece that stays in your heart,” she said.

That piece, the judges decided, was Irvin Trujillo’s weaving.

“He has such a commitment and has only shined,” Benkof said.

Trujillo, a seventh-generation Rio Grande-style weaver, started learning the traditional craft when he was 10 and has since shared the art form with his wife and passed it on to Emily, one of his two children.

“We push each other and we learn from each other by doing that,” he said.

He and his wife opened their weaving shop, Centinela Traditional Arts in Chimayó, with his father in 1982. That same year, Lisa Trujillo began showing in the Spanish Market, six years after her husband joined.

In the 1990s, Lisa Trujillo brought home most of the couple’s ribbons.

“They definitely compete with each other and it’s absolutely adorable,” their daughter said.

Growing up in the shop, Emily Trujillo learned to weave but initially rejected it, wanting to be any other kind of artist. From watercolor to sculpting, she tried a varied of genres, fighting against her family’s tradition until she finally recognized the cultural value of the craft.

Now, she said, “I want to compete with them.”

Emily hopes to be selected to show her own work in the market next year.

Many of Irvin Trujillo’s textiles have won awards in the past at the Spanish Market, and some have hung in museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Museum of American History.

He won the Spanish Market’s lifetime achievement award in 2007 and is a National Heritage Fellow, a lifetime honor presented to master artists by the National Endowment for the Arts.

But, he said, considering the ribbons hanging next to his winning piece in this year’s market, “I don’t win it. The piece wins it. …

“For me, it’s a ritual,” he said of the art form. “It’s to celebrate my culture and to celebrate my heritage.”

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