Vicente Telles is a self-taught artist motivated by both knowledge and circumstances of his native Nuevo Mexico. He was born in Albuquerque’s South Valley in 1983 but believes his coming was a generation too early. He started off painting traditional retablos (saints on carved pieces of wood) but has reinterpreted traditional hispanic iconography to create more contemporary pieces. This is most evident in his comic-style santos that he says help capture the minds and hearts of children, as well as the more contemporary materials of brushed steel, other oxidized metals–all which animate provocative investigations and interpretations of his subjects. Telles is an award-winning artist who is represented in galleries in California, New Mexico and Arizona.
People often see saints as religious. I like to believe they transcend religion. Painting retablos inspires me to learn about who I am, where I come from and the art-form that represents the true beauty and history of my ancestral lands. When I paint, I feel proud to be New Mexican, and to know there's something bigger connecting the past to the present and the future. As a santero I've learned to love my land; it's where I'm from and to what I will eventually return. I honor my ancestors by nailing two small copper nails in each corner of the wooden retablos. I paint with my soul and that of my family, believing my grandparents would be proud of me. In painting metal retablos, I feel I am expanding my knowledge of an art form that has been in the Southwest region since the 17th century.
I paint retablos and Catholic saints because, as a Chicano, I feel my language has already been taken from me. This art form has survived and come down through generations; it shows people are willing to fight back as a community. I paint to send a message that my culture, my heritage will live on. Not everybody tolerates rhetoric but a beautiful image transcends, silently.