The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this document, Vernon Hunter presents a brief artist biography of New Mexican wood-carver Patrocinio Barela. Hunter discusses Barela’s early development as an artist, noting that he began his career making conventional carvings of saints before moving on to other, more varied subject matters. He details the difficult conditions of his childhood and the challenges Barela faced trying to find work before establishing himself as a wood-carver. It also includes several quotes by Barela in which he articulates his personal motivations for his artistic practice, as well as brief explanations of a few key works.
Vernon Hunter (1900–1955) was an artist, writer, and arts administrator. From 1933 to 1943, Hunter was the coordinator of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in New Mexico. Within that capacity he employed Patrocinio Barela (1900–1964) as a WPA artist, and also promoted him as a “modern primitive” to art collectors and museums. Eventually, Barela’s work was exhibited and collected by major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. (It was the MoMA exhibition in 1936 that prompted the New York Times to declare Barela “the discovery of the year.”) This essay, written in the 1930s and included in a New York Graphics Society 1973 publication on national WPA artists, is significant for its inclusion of a Mexican American/Latino artist, which indeed is not the norm for mainstream documentation of the WPA period.