El Nicho Folk Artist Spotlight
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Carving in His Father's Footsteps
Inside the wood carving shop of Pete Ortega
The completed Santos from Pete's workshop
Pete Ortega with one of his folk art carvings
Pete Ortega in his showroom
Pete Ortega poses with his father's original carving
One of Father Ben's first carvings
Master woodcarver Ben Ortega passed his exceptional skills to his son Pete Ortega. Pete’s love of carving has made him a folk art legend in his own right. It is his faith that inspires Pete to create pieces that depict religious figures in the traditional Spanish Colonial Santeros art form.
A visit to Pete's studio shows the meticulous attention to detail in every one of his carvings. Pete's most significant role model in developing his style was his father, the late Ben Ortega. In his home showroom, Pete shows us one of his father's first carvings, which was created decades ago for a fundraiser for the Santa Fe Opera. The rest is history, as they say, and Pete has taken the mantle of his father's work and elevated the traditional Santeros art form to a new level.
Pete is passionate about his art, and he will carve any religious figure upon request. His work consists of saints, angels, urns and folk art. He works with cottonwood, cedar, aspen, pine, and driftwood. The shape and texture of each piece of wood add character and holds its own individual uniqueness.
The Spanish Colonial Art Society of Santa Fe has contributed significantly to the substance of Spanish colonial arts in Santa Fe and has been a leader in the revitalization of traditional Hispanic arts culture since it was founded. Pete is an active participant in the society and participates annually at their Spanish Market each July. Father Ben Ortega was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at Spanish Market, and his work has received widespread recognition by becoming a part of the permanent collection in the Smithsonian Institute. Along with his siblings, Pete hopes to preserve his family legacy for generations to come. Winner of multiple Santa Fe Spanish Market awards, Pete was named a “Legacy Artist” for the city’s 400th anniversary, and given Phoenix Home & Gardens Magazine’s 2011 Master of the Southwest Award, Pete Ortega is already a legend.