Tagged Guadalupe

Guadalupe Procession California by Cristina Acosta

Guadalupe Procession to Celebrate December

I walked 25 miles yesterday with thousands of people marching for love. Despite walking the 25 miles, I did not finish the Guadalupe procession which zig-zagged it’s way around the Coachella Valley in Southern California to the Our Lady of Solitude Church in Palm Springs, California to it’s sister church in Coachella. I knew the distance from my house to that church was a bit over 20 miles, so I put myself in that headspace and filled a backpack with water and food. I set my orthotics into my best pair of walking shoes and prepared clothing for a day that would span from a cold desert morning across the hot sun of the day.

The Guadalupe Procession began at 6 a.m., about dawn in the town of Palm Springs, California. Six hours later I was walking against the nylon rope that shaped the serpentine line of thousands of people against the right curb of the concrete highway and wondered when we would arrive. I checked my smartphone and saw that we’d traveled about 15 miles (including my walk from home to the Procession) and thought the church must be about 7 miles ahead.

Despite beginning the Guadalupe Procession at the front of the group, bathroom breaks had put me at the back of the procession by the time I reached 15 the mile mark. Getting in and out of the porta-potty line was the time-suck dark side of proper hydration.

Guadalupe Procession California by Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe Procession California by Cristina Acosta

The desert sun was beating down surprisingly strong for a December day, reflecting back up relentlessly from the concrete road and my feet were starting to swell. I introduced myself to the man at the end of the line who was carrying about 20 pounds of coiled rope over his left shoulder as he walked the end of the procession. His name was Enrique and he smiled at the surprise on my face when he told me the procession was 36 miles long.

That was a surprise. Apparently the different Coachella Valley cities the Guadalupe Procession zigzagged through required a path that kept the procession of thousands away from the succession of stoplights on Highway 111, adding about 13 miles to the 22 mile journey. For the first time, I wondered if I would be able to complete the Guadalupe Procession.

I didn’t. The second stop of the Procession was in Indian Wells across from The Tennis Gardens. My smartphone told me I’d walked 25 miles. I’d been fantasizing about ibuprofen pills for the past hour and I knew that pushing my middle-aged body to the finish line, though possible, would exact more of a toll than I wanted to pay. So, I stopped.

cristina-acosta-2016-guadalupe-processionI sent prayers to all of those people in the world who don’t have the option to stop when they are miserable. Prayers to the people of Syria, trapped in a city they can’t walk away from and those refugees around the world who put their lives on the line to walk even one more step into the unknown.

Watching my fellow travelers in the Guadalupe Procession I was reminded of the humanity we all share. And I was overcome with the love that thousands of fellow travelers in the journey displayed for others. December 12th is the Catholic Feast Day for Our Lady of Guadalupe, a day of processions and prayer that can include a walk if you are so inclined. No need to be Catholic to join, anyone is welcome.Walking in the Guadalupe Procession was a beautiful way to celebrate the month of Christmas.

Contemporary Hispanic art Guadalupe by Cristina Acosta

Contemporary Hispanic Spiritual Religious Art

Contemporary Hispanic retablos are altars that celebrate the North American madonnas of La Conquistadora and the Guadalupe and others that Cristina creates with precious metals, beeswax, oil paint and 22kt gold glazed antique ceramic mosaic on antique wood panels.

Retablos range from 18″ tall to over 52″ tall.

Artist Statement:This religious art is my expression of spirit, ancestral family and of my faith in creation. Raised within the traditions of Catholicism, I’ve created these retablos (altars) to explore the archetypal sacred feminine in the form of the Marion figures that blend the European image of Mary with the Native American Indigenous female creations figures. I do this by presenting the traditional madonnas of La Conquistadora and La Guadalupe with American Indian symbols. As I am a blend of Spanish, Native American and Anglo, creating Marian figures that represent this blend of cultures naturally flows from me. I’ve been making altars for over 30 years and consider them a visual rendition of my spiritual practice. When I paint them, I meditate on aspects of the divine and let the image change and flow as my inspiration moves my hands.

These contemporary Hispanic retablos are part of the traditional lineage of all of my ancestors. Because I work from traditions rather than repeat them exactly, these retablos fit into a concept that is the New Mexican Spanish tradition of the ex-voto. An ex-voto is a tradition of creating an image to commemorate life’s blessing with an altar sharing the blessing. My expression of the divine feminine is my way to express my gratitude for the blessings of life.

La Conquistadora with Dine Spider Woman and Puebloan Corn Maiden by ©Cristina Acosta
La Conquistadora with Dine Spider Woman and Puebloan Corn Maiden by ©Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe with Crown - The World is Her Heart
Running Mediation - The Feminine Divine by ©Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe with a Tear by ©Cristina Acosta
Our Lady of Czestochowa by ©Cristina Acosta
Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta by ©Cristina Acosta
La Sirena Azul The Blue Mermaid by ©Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe by Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe with Child by ©Cristina Acosta
La Sirena Verde The Green Mermaid by ©Cristina Acosta
Eve and the Tree of Knowledge by ©Cristina Acosta
Conquistadora at the Center of the Universe by ©Cristina Acosta
Our Lady of the Winter Snows by ©Cristina Acosta



Contemporary Hispanic art Guadalupe with Crown - The World is Her Heart

Guadalupe Contemporary Retablo

Contemporary retablo of the Guadalupe with Crown is an ex-voto. Titled, Guadalupe with Crown, the World is Her Heart, in this image the Guadalupe holds the earth within her heart. The spinning earth nestles into her body, a universe of spacious emptiness. Her image is created on sheets of sterling silver metal leaf layered with oil paints glazes and layered again with more silver. Her gaze is straight-forwards and engages you.

An ex-voto is a type of retablo that portrays a non-typical version of the revered religious figure. I painted this version of the Guadalupe to show her as a nurturing and loving universe gently enfolding the planet earth.

Title: Guadalupe with Crown, the World is Her Heart

Medium:  Oil; 22kt gold, sterling silver leaf on vintage Ponderosa Pine wood panel reclaimed from a 1904 wood mill and formed by an artisan woodworker into a single panel.

Size: 18″ x 24″

Year: Fall 2007, 2009


Contemporary Religious art Guadalupe with a Tear by ©Cristina Acosta

Guadalupe with a Tear Contemporary Latina Art Retablo

Embracing her child, the Guadalupe lovingly gazes at the child, Jesus. Here, La Guadalupe is the symbol of mother-love. Three playful birds flit within a field of copper leaf over tinted and textured wax incised with the shapes of roses. A 22 kt. gold leaf sphere glows above. Tile mosaic of antique 24kt. gold glazed poly chorme tiles is both a decorative surround and the pattern of her cloak. After painting the image, the seam between planks opened, creating a “tear” like line. Rather than filling the line, I saw that the tear symbolized the prescient moment when she intuited that her child would be destined for greatness and understood her role to nurture his beginning life with unconditional love.

Title of Artwork:  Guadalupe with a Tear


Oil; 22kt gold, sterling silver and copper metal leaf; wax; antique 24kt. Gold glazed tile mosaic; semi-precious stones on vintage Ponderosa Pine wood panel reclaimed from a 1904 wood mill and formed by an artisan wood worker into a single panel.

Size:  18” x 24”

Year:  2005/2006

Contemporary Spanish Market art Conquistadora at the Portal by ©Cristina Acosta

La Conquistadora at the Portal – Contemporary Retablo by ©Cristina Acosta

I painted this retablo of La Conquistadora at the Portal in the ex-voto tradition in gratitude for the blessing of fertility. The Madonna – Conquistadora / Guadalupe / The Corn Maiden – is at the center of life and death. On either side the skeletons, pillars on each end of the rainbow are guardians / ancestors / reminders of mortality’s part in the life cycle. Overhead a rainbow arcs to contain the brightness of her being. Flora switches from dark to light, from blood red to the dark of night and back again. A red stalk of corn, the color of blood, is the spine of her body. It springs from the crescent moon beneath her, the same moon cradels the landscape of the earth. An green stalk of corn stands at the side, as ever-present plant life.

Title: Center of Creation
Size: 42″ x 60″

Year: 2008

Medium: Oil, 22kt. gold, sterling silver and copper metal leaf with antique 24kt gold glazed ceramic mosaic on wood panel. Wood panel is artisan made from reclaimed Ponderosa Pine planks taken from the 1904 circa mill buildings that were razed for redevelopment.

Latin American Herald Tribune Features My Exhibit – Reshaping the Divine

Exhibit – Reshaping the Divine

Thank you to the Latin American Herald Tribune, for the interview and feature of my art exhibit, Reshaping the Divine – Contemporary Hispanic Retablos Exploring the Divine Feminine, on exhibit at the El Museo Cultural in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the Summer 2009.

I am very appreciative that my work is getting such positive attention. I’ve included an excerpt. You can READ MORE here.

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Chicana Artist Explores Heritage Through Retablo Paintings

By Lydia Gil

SANTA FE, New Mexico – Chicana artist Cristina Acosta has turned to sacred art as a means of exploring her religious and cultural heritage, incorporating aspects of her life, beliefs and family history into Madonna retablos.

“The tradition of the retablo (devotional image) reflects both the past and the present,” said the artist, whose works are now on display as part of an exhibit of contemporary retablos at this southwestern U.S. city’s El Museo Cultural.

The word “retablo” in Spanish dates back to the Renaissance and Baroque era and was used to refer to large screens that were placed behind altars in churches and were decorated with paintings, carvings, and sculptures.

These large altar screens then became prevalent in colonial Latin America as well, and by the 19th century oil-on-tin retablo paintings of Christ, the Virgin, and saints were commonly produced by amateur artists for devotional use in the home.

However, in parts of the southwestern United States, such as New Mexico and Colorado, retablos passed beyond the realm of sacred art into that of folklore.

Acosta said there are two types of retablos, one belonging to the tradition of Catholic saints and the other to that of “ex-votos,” or offerings of gratitude.

She says the first group is similar to the concept of icon painting in Byzantine art, in which the figures of saints or the Holy Family are painted in accordance with strict liturgical rules that define how the main figure should be portrayed.

“The counterpoint to that tradition is the ex-voto retablo, for which there are no rules but rather (the artist) creates a personal vision to give thanks for a blessing (received) or when a petition was heard,” she said.

It is within this folk tradition that her art is rooted.

Acosta said her retablos have served as a medium for meditating on her family heritage, her Latino identity and her role as a woman and an artist.

“My retablos are strictly related to my life, my Latina-Chicana cultural heritage in the southwestern U.S. and my personal opinions and life experiences,” she said.

Acosta, who now lives in Oregon, grew up in a Catholic family – the daughter of an Anglo-American mother and a Mexican-American father – in southern California. . . . READ MORE

Here are some links:

The article was picked up by the international service, so you may find it in Latin America and Spain as well.

Here it is in English translation:

Contemporary Hispanic market art La Conquistadora with Dine Spider Woman and Puebloan Corn Maiden by ©Cristina Acosta

Reshaping the Divine – Contemporary Hispanic Retablos Exploring the Sacred Feminine

This exhibit: Summer 2009.The artist statement describes the personal context of my art and about the intent behind these pieces.

Reshaping the Divine: Contemporary Hispanic Retablos Exploring the Sacred Feminine

Cristina Ortiz Acosta – Artist Statement 2009 – Exhibit at El Museo Cultural, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Over the past twenty years, my series of Madonna retablos came to me in ebbs and flows via a series of powerful dreams. The dreams started during my pregnancy with my daughter. For the entire pregnancy I dreamt of being a woman on a journey north across dusty plains and through arroyos as I mostly walked behind an oxcart. The dreams ended in a room lit by a wooden candelabra filled with tallow candles and the birth of my daughter, Isabella Pilar in 1993.

I called these dreams my Maria Dreams because in the dreams, I/she was named Maria. Seeking the meaning of those dreams over the years brought me down a path I could never have imagined and deepened my understanding of my cultural heritage. Searching for the meaning of my Maria Dreams eventually lead me back to New Mexico, the land of my Ortiz ancestors.

My paternal grandmother, Catalina Maria Ortiz Acosta, born in 1904, was the daughter of J. Nestor Ortiz and Maria Elena Salazar, descendants of the original Spanish settlers founding the cities and villages throughout New Mexico. Researching my family genealogy (my grandmother spoke vaguely about her ancestors), I discovered that my direct ancestors had participated in the initial 16th and 17th century migrations of the Spanish, traveling North from Mexico City into the region that is now the State of New Mexico. I read books about the era and became fascinated by the types of experiences my female ancestors must have had while living on the New Mexican frontier for generations. With this research nurturing my experience of my personal history, my calling to paint Madonna’s began to take shape.

Born in Los Angeles to an Anglo mother and Hispanic father, early on I was aware of cultural concepts because of the differences between the two sides of my family. Despite their differences, Catholicism was the central theme for my parents. Celebrating their devotion resulted in religious images from the Americas and Europe scattered throughout our home and those of our relatives. Images of Mary the Mother of God as the Guadalupe, Conquistadora and many other versions were always present. Along with those images were displayed American Indian items from the Ortiz ranch.

The artifacts from the Ortiz family ranch consumed my imagination from as far back as I can remember. Handmade Indian blankets and pots, and even a gold menorah (referred to as a “candelabra” by my grandmother) made by Ortiz ancestors generations past (some of the men were renowned filigree gold smiths). Those as well as the chili ristras hanging in my grandmother’s kitchen hinted at another world far from the Southern California beach scene of my childhood home. For reasons I can’t sufficiently articulate, the mix of these images and experiences coalesced into my calling to visually explore and create new images of the Madonna as an expression of the feminine divine.

Each of the retablos I paint results in a new vision of the sacred. For example, painting La Conquistadora opened the door to re-balancing the dominant patriarchal and European view of the divine with the North American native and feminine. In La Conquistadora I layer symbols of the Dine Spider woman and the Puebloan Corn Maiden, seeking to blend the indigenous ancient female images and concepts harmoniously with the Catholic image of Mary. The result is a Madonna that hints of ancient goddesses many thousands of years old at the same time she conveys the current blend of cultures in the Southwest.

I create my work in the traditions of the Spanish/Mexican retablo to reinforce my expression of reverence and convey the intimate experience of sacredness. I find antique, reclaimed timbers for the substrate. I mix gold, silver and copper metals into my oil paintings to both embellish the image and in homage to the gifts my ancestors created for me with their existence. The vintage gold glazed ceramic tiles come from a tile company that operated near my childhood home in Southern California during the 1950’s and 60’s. When I finish a retablo, I write a blessing on the backside of the retablo to convey love to all who view the images.

My Maria Dreams from over a decade ago continue to influence this series of work. May you find your own meanings and blessings within these images.

Antique Guadalupe Shrine with Painting by Cristina Acosta

Antique Guadalupe Shrine and the December 12th Feast of the Guadalupe

Sometimes things happen that seem so mysteriously destined that I’m amazed at the richness of this universe. About 4 or 5 years ago a man called my business number and asked if I had any interior design need for furnishings. He was a semi-retired fine carpenter and furniture maker and was looking for new business contacts.

When he told me he was in Albany, Oregon a city in the Willamette Valley about 2 1/2 hours from my home in Bend, Oregon. I was curious as to why he would call someone out of his geographic area. When I asked him, he said that he had just started experimenting with calling people and that I was the first Hispanic name he saw under theDesigner category in the phone book. As he was Chicano (Mexican-American) he said he hoped I would be nice because my name was Spanish. (My late father was Mexican-American or Chicano, hence my Spanish name.)

Once he told me he was practicing his business skills on me, we both relaxed and chatted a bit, talking about what it was like to be one of the very few Mexican-Americans (Chicanos) in Oregon during the 1980’s. I told him about my series of retablo paintings of Madonnas that I was working on.

He then told me that he had something he needed to get rid of before he retired, and that I might be the perfect person for it. He said that he had a Catholic Church confessional from a church that had been closed. Though he was vague as to how he came by the piece, he’d had it for over 30 years and asked if I would like to buy it. Without photos I said no, though it sounded interesting. After our conversation I sent him a postcard of one of my retablos, La Conquistadora / the Corn Maiden / Dine Spider Woman.

The next month and for about 6 months afterward, the man would check in with me to see if I’d like to buy his confessional. I never saw a photo and always said no.

Then one Saturday morning he was parked at my studio in a work van with a friend. I was stunned that he had driven over 2 hours over a mountain pass and hadn’t called to even see if I would be there. My husband, Randall had been at work (at that time our work spaces were in the same building) early to catch up on things and met the man when he knocked on my husband’s door to ask if he knew where I was.

I drove up to the studio building to see Randall standing at the back of the man’s open van and signaling me the absolutely-no-way hand signals in tandem with the what-in-the-heck-is-going-on eyebrow raise.

Stepping behind the van I looked in to see the “confessional” and was struck with amazement. The sections of cabinetry and plastic ziploc bag of “extra parts” looked like nothing but scraps of old wood and a lot of work to my husband, but I could see that what I was looking at was an altar.

That was it — I really wanted that pile of cabinetry. The man and I went back and forth on a price and I bought the cabinet. Randall was totally against the idea, but as it wasn’t a “affecting both of us for life” type of decision, I bought it anyway. Fortunately, Randall is a lovely guy who happens to be handsome, handy and dotes on me — so, he put the cabinet together despite his initial dismay with my decision to buy the cabinet.

I was so filled with amazement at the synchronicity and magical quality of life. I cleaned the pieces of wood with Citrus thinner and Randall put the puzzle of pieces together until it was a complete shrine. I asked everyone I thought might know, if they knew anything about the cabinet. Nobody did, but I felt that it was a shrine for the Guadalupe. So, I had my artisan woodworker friend, Terry Scoville, make me 2 wood panels to fit the “holes” left in the cabinet after someone had removed something years ago.

I painted an image of the Guadalupe with Child in oils, 22kt. gold leaf, wax and antique ceramic mosaic to suit the intimate space of the shrine along with a thin horizontal insert. Randall installed them. It is beautiful and we get so much pleasure from viewing the shrine. The shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe is my constant reminder of the strange and often ironic, abundant beauty of life.

A couple of years later, while traveling in Taxco, Mexico I saw identical woodwork on 2 confessional chairs in the Cathedral at the top of the hill and knew that the shrine had “found” me. The man from Albany, Oregon had indeed found the “right” home for what he thought was a confessional, but in reality was a Shrine to the Guadalupe.

In Mexico, the top part of the cabinet (with the portrait of the Guadalupe) is removed from the stand (or bottom section) and is carried at the head of a procession on Dec. 12th. Sometimes the curtain is across her image during part of the procession, other times not — it depends upon the local traditions. During the rest of the year, the top part sits on the cabinet in a church.

I often light candles I put in the cabinet, or just turn on a light to enjoy it. My friend, Mimi Graves brought me a ristra of local grown red chilies which dried while hanging from the cabinet door. Here’s some info about the festival.

Catholic traditions include Feast Days which are specially designated days for a Saint or Holy Person. December 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In Mexico, this feast is one of the holiest days of the year. Though the concept is not sanctioned by the Catholic Church, some people consider the Guadalupe to be the Christian version of the Aztec Mother Earth goddess Tonantzin. The Our Lady of Guadalupe festival is much more of a tradition in Mexico than in the U.S., though in areas with a lot of Hispanics there are often processions to celebrate the day. Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe are often considered Chicano art, Catholic religious art or Hispanic art — To hispanics of Mexican-American ancestory, the image of the Guadalupe is a symbol that goes beyond religious affiliations to become an icon of identity.

I was raised very Catholic and consider myself  Latina. Despite the spiritually seismic shifts I’ve experienced that re-shaped my beliefs, I love to paint Madonnas and think of them as expressions of the Divine Feminine.

Contemporary Hispanic art Guadalupe by Cristina Acosta

The Guadalupe with the Three Sisters – Corn, Squash and Beans by Cristina Acosta

Walking through the aisles of a natural foods store I’m lulled into thinking that buying the latest salty snack with the word “organic” plastered all over the plastic sack will save the planet. Yes, it’s better than eating a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) conventional product that’s similar, but there’s a lot more to saving the planet than falling prey to some marketer’s labeling of an ultra-processed packaged edible as “organic food.”

So what does this topic have to do with the creative life? More than you might think at first glance. Creativity and our willingness to embrace positive change are integral to changing the course of planetary environmental degradation. I got started thinking about this while drawing the chili pepper plant growing in my house. Though it’s officially spring in Bend, Oregon, it is in the 20’s and snowing today. Growing in the sunshine of our upstairs window, this perennial plant is an abundance of bright green leaves teamed with a few dozen slender, brilliantly red & green, small chili peppers.

I let the chilies ripen red and dry on the vine, then I crumble them over salted, roasted peanuts for an afternoon snack. Sometimes I put them in a salsa or red chili sauce. The unique thing about this chili plant is that it is native to New Mexico, the home of my paternal grandmother’s ancestors. I like eating a food that enriched the lives of my ancestors for generations. You can buy seeds for this and other native plants at Native Seeds/SEARCH. Native Seeds/SEARCH is a non-profit that is striving to preserve the genetic diversity of our country’s South West heirloom and indigenous food and utility crops. No matter how “organic” our food is, if we continue to lose biodiversity, our food supply can be easily jeopardized by diseases or other unforeseen problems.

Native Seeds/SEARCH describes themselves thus: “The Native Seeds/Search Seedbank houses, for future generations, the seeds of crops and wild plants traditionally used as food, fiber and dyes by prehistoric and more recent cultures inhabiting the arid southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. . . approximately 2,000 different accessions of traditional crops grown by Apache, Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Gila River Pima, Guarijio, Havasupai, Hopi, Maricopa, Mayo, Mojave, Mountain Pima, Navajo, Paiute, Puebloan, Tarahumara, Tohono O’odham and Yaqui farmers. Over one-half of the collections are comprised of the three sisters — corn, bean, and squash. An additional 48 species of crops and wild crop relatives wait in frozen storage, including amaranth, tepary bean, chile, cotton, devil’s claw, gourds, melon, sunflowers, tobacco, teosinte, watermelon and wild beans.”

The “Three Sisters” of corn, beans and squash are the crops that the American Indians considered necessary to support a settlement. Honoring these indigenous crops and that American Indian heritage along with the Spanish heritage of the American Southwest, I painted a Santos style retablo of my Madonna, Guadalupe with the Three Sisters: Corn, Squash & Beans.This retablo is part of my Hispanic Culture Sacred images series.

If you live anywhere in the American Southwest, or if like me, you have a sunny window, I encourage you to look through thewww.nativeseeds.org website. They sell heirloom seeds, baking mixes, spices, art, goat milk soap, even Christmas ornaments by Hopi artist Gerald Dawavendewa and others. Another thing they do that is so generous both individually and to our planet is their Native American Outreach program where they give a certain amount of seeds to American Indians for their gardens, along with Adopt A Crop program to keep those seeds viable. They also have a Cultural Memory Bank Project that pairs the knowledge of the geneticist with the folklorist to conserve not only the plant, but how that plant was nurtured and utilized. Art and Science together for the good of our planet. Now that’s creativity!

Running Mediation - The Feminine Divine Hispanic Meditation altar by ©Cristina Acosta

The Madonna in Meditation – Retablo Altar by Cristina Acosta

The Madonna sits in serenity as her soul gallops freely through time and space. Her winged-heart nurtures life. In her serene stillness she holds the spinning circles of life within her. She is the mother of us all: Eve, La Conquistadora,  La Guadalupe, Bodhisattva, Kuan Yin, Mary, La Senora, The Mother of God.. . .

I painted this meditation altar in the traditions of my New Mexican ancestors. Painted as an ex-voto retablo, it celebrates the blessings of meditation.

Title: Running Meditation

Size: 42″ x 60″

Year: 2008, 2010

Medium: Oil, 22kt. gold, sterling silver and copper metal leaf with antique 24kt gold glazed ceramic mosaic on wood panel. Wood panel is artisan made from reclaimed Ponderosa Pine planks taken from the 1904 circa mill buildings that were razed for redevelopment.