San Luis Valley Colcha Embroidery will open on Saturday, May 7 at the Range in Saguache. The exhibition brings together works of art on loan from artists, families and museums in Colorado and New Mexico. There will be a reception in honor of the artists on Saturday, May 7 at 1 p.m. during the Fiesta Cinco de Mayo de Saguache.
Colcha embroidery is practiced in the San Luis Valley as a traditional art inspired by Spanish colonial culture with indigenous and Anglo-American influences. The region’s Colcha embroideries often illustrate personal stories and local landscapes, capturing complex memories of the valley. Periodic efforts to pass on the tradition through workshops have created a vibrant conversation around colcha embroidery in southern Colorado, with influential ties to communities in northern New Mexico, where the art form originated in early 19th century.
Many contemporary colcha embroidery artists from the San Luis Valley are responding to changing technologies and cultural trends, incorporating available materials that embody the textures of their time. Some artists in the exhibit use hand-woven sabanilla fabrics and plant-dyed yarns made from the wool of Navajo-Churro sheep, long used to create textiles in the region. The colcha embroidery technique uses a single needle and thread, laying long stitches attached to the fabric with stitches. The term colcha refers to the Spanish word for bedspread. It is common in the historic and modern style of the San Luis Valley to fill the entire surface of the fabric with embroidery.
Groups such as Artes del Valle Cooperative, The Ladies Sewing Circle of San Luis, and Saguache Colcha Embroiderers operated through the 1970s and 80s, providing instruction and support to dozens of artists across the valley and inspiring family and friends to adopt the artistic practice. One such artist is Josephine Lobato de San Luis, who after decades of work in colcha embroidery was named a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow in 2019. Today, colcha embroiderers come together every month in San Luis, under the coordination of the artist Marcella Pacheco. Artists Patsy Garcia and Delores Worley of Saguache continue to share stories of working with their group over 40 years ago, providing vivid insight into one of the community’s most treasured arts.
Donna Madrid Hernandez de San Luis reflects on how the tradition of colcha embroidery in her town influences her, writing that “it makes me happy, relaxes me and takes me back to when I was a child, thinking to my grandmother’s friends and how they used to pass the time embroidering at the colcha All the buildings and churches now in frames make my heart sing because I was part of those structures I look at a Las Posadas (a work by Joséphine Lobato) and think of how, for nine days before Christmas, we would go out each evening and ask for a posada, a resting place for the Virgin Mary. Walking from house to house in the snow and cold, I simply cannot explain the beauty and the memory that marked my life forever. I love doing colcha embroidery and I have so many other projects to do.
San Luis Valley Colcha Embroidery will feature more than sixty artists.
In collaboration with San Luis Valley Colcha Embroidery, temporary murals by Edica Pacha celebrating the embroiderers of San Luis Colcha will be on display at Alamosa. These murals are hosted by Ef’s Restaurant on Highway 285 and the A&J Solar building next to Zapata Park.
These murals will be visible throughout the summer of 2022.
Partner organizations participating in the exhibit include Alamosa Public Library, Chicano Humanities and Arts Council (CHAC), Chicano/a Murals of Colorado Project, HEART of Saguache/KV, History Colorado, MSU Denver Chicana/o Studies, Northern Saguache County Library District, Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center and Sisters of Color United for Education.
Support for Colcha Embroidery of the San Luis Valley is provided by a Colorado Creative Corps ARP grant funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and a Saguache County Sales Tax Grant. The range would like to give special thanks to Diversions Needlepoint in Englewood, Colorado for providing supplies to colcha embroiderers. Inquiries about San Luis Valley Colcha Embroidery can be sent to [email protected]
San Luis Valley Colcha Embroidery will be on view May 7 through June 19, 2022 at 307 4th Street in downtown Saguache at The Range Gallery. There will be opening hours during the exhibition on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ring the bell or call 646-734-1373 to visit the exhibit outside these hours.