© Ramón José López

© Ramón José López

Soldado de Cuero / Leather Jacket Soldier's Suit, 1996
Brain tanned buffalo hide and buffalo sinew
Collections of the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe

Continuing to push boundaries, López created an entire outfit for a colonial soldier of the early 18th century. He prepared the leather (including buffalo bladders made into canteens), cut the pattern and sewed together the pieces with buffalo sinew, based on renderings in the historic Segesser hide paintings. Both the outfit and the Segesser paintings are in the collections of the Palace of the Governors.

La Sagrada Familia / The Holy Family, 1994
Water soluble pigments on brain tanned buffalo hide
Collections of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, Inc.

Paintings of religious subjects on tanned animal hides are some of the earliest documented images made in the Spanish colonial era in New Mexico. Painted tanned hides were exported to Mexico as early as the 1630s. Antas blancas was the term frequently used for hides intended to be painted; anta means elk or moose. In this case the artist used buffalo (cíbolo) hide.

Using antique scrapers that he has found at sales and flea markets, it takes López, with the help of his family, a full week to prepare a buffalo hide for painting. He begins by stretching the hide taut on a frame. He then removes fat, sinew, and hair. After this, the hide must be tanned—a laborious process where the brains of the animal are rubbed repeatedly over the scraped surface of the hide until it is supple. It is only after this that the hide may be painted and various binders applied, such as cactus juice, beaver tail, and animal hide glue. The artwork is then smoked for water proofing. The only traditional Hispano New Mexican artist to prepare hides himself, López is still experimenting with different pigments and sealers.

Silver Work | Hide Paintings
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