Grantee: Mateo Romero
Mateo Romero’s distinctive depictions of Southwest Native life are known throughout the Native art-painting world. Represented by Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe, Romero has shown at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts and is in the collections of the Denver Art Museum and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. His work has appeared in various publications and he has served on committees and boards for art organizations while periodically teaching at the Institute of American Indian Art.
Mateo Romero was born into a family of artists. His grandmother, Teresita Chavez Romero, was a notable Cochiti Pueblo polychrome potter. His father, Santiago Romero, was a Dorothy Dunn School trained watercolorist. And his older brother, Diego Romero, is a prominent ceramicist. From his family, he learned early in life about the value, appreciation and importance of art and artists.
Mateo asserts that painting and drawing have always been urgent, compelling, and necessary for him. He paints out of a need to communicate, to contextualize, and to form meaning in an ever-changing, fast-paced world around him. He calls his drive to paint “a manic demand deeply embedded in my psyche.”
In his painting, Romero’s Rio Grande Pueblo ancestry and spirituality manifests itself through the recognizable influence of modern and contemporary Western artists found in his painterly technique, sense of light and dark color mixing, bold brush strokes, and even use of image projection. His mixed media painting style can be described as a collision between painting and photography. He generates contrasts with color as he paints an outlined figure on a canvas. He is inspired by bold color, surface, texture, thick impasto, and image, and guides his brush to weave all these elements together cohesively.
The NACF National Artist Fellowship allows Mateo to create a new body of portrait work chosen from photographs of Native people and live-action shots onto sizeable canvases. He will first produce the body of photographic images from Feast Day Dances in the Rio Grande Pueblos, Native arts and crafts fairs with dancers, and scheduled modeling sessions. He will then select photos from this body for final inclusion in his new portrait series.
As a Rio Grande Pueblo man the importance of the ritual, ceremony, and dance cannot be overstated . . . I create poignant, meaningful canvases that re-create these experiences for an audience. – Mateo Romero