A retrospective of works by the late Maximilliano “Max” Padilla Henderson will open this weekend at the Eastern New Mexico ArtSpace Gallery.
About 20 santos and carvings by the artist from the family’s collection have been generously loaned for the exhibit, said David Buchen, director of ENMAS.
The artist’s widow Esther Moya Henderson of Tucumcari has been helping to put together the exhibit.
Henderson was born in Puerto de Luna, a small settlement 10 miles south of Santa Rosa in 1937. Ten years later, his family moved to Tucumcari. The move was a traumatic one for the youngster, who had gone to school in a one-room schoolhouse, surrounded by his Spanish language and culture, according to a biography provided by Buchen.
In 1954, at age 17, he married, Esther Moya. The couple moved to Los Angeles where they stayed for 10 years, then to Albuquerque and eventually to Tucumcari again, where Henderson did paint and body work. By this time, the couple had eight children, and he began to make odds and ends for their house.
Later Henderson started selling some of these items, furniture and crafts in Santa Fe. Then when an elderly man showed him a wooden figure of Christ that was broken and held together with duct tape, Henderson volunteered to repair it, taking the opportunity to examine the design and colors. He began studying the work of famous artists and books of saints and found encouragement from several famous santeros in northern New Mexico.
Santeros are artists who carve and paint santos, images of saints. It is one of the oldest living traditions of religious devotion practiced by Hispanic Americans, said the Smithsonian Web site.
Since that time Henderson has carved and painted the nativity scene and altar table in the San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in the U.S. in 1990, and his work is in collections in the U.S. and Europe.