FELIPE BENITO ARCHULETA Felipe Benito Archuleta Main < BACK

Felipe Benito Archuleta was born in Santa Cruz in 1910 and went by wagon to Colorado (two days each way) to pick potatoes in the summer; and he picked chiles in the fall. Later he herded sheep and, during the Depression, worked as a line cook in various CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camps. In 1939 Archuleta gave up his semi-nomadic life and moved to Santa Fe, where he took a job as a fry-cook at La Fonda Hotel. He also played drums with a Hispanic combo at dances and cabarets.

Archuleta learned carpentry and joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America in 1943. He took great pride in his work and always left his signature on each job site. In 1964, however, Archuleta had a major disagreement with the carpenters union. He had seven children to feed, and felt that, because of his tenure in the union, he should be guaranteed steady work and not have to travel, but no guarantees were forthcoming. This marked a turning point in his life, and it was then on that he began to carve. Archuleta said that during this period of conflict, the Lord appeared to him and said, "Carve wood." Archuleta replied, "I am not worthy to be a santero. So I will carve animals."

In the 1970s, the Museum of American Folk Art in Santa Fe put an Archuleta menagerie on display, and soon collectors of southwestern folk art besieged him. The inspiration for his animals is from his own observations, and also from the National Geographic magazines. He is known for making his animals rough and fierce; they often have long sharp claws and snarling mouths filled with big white teeth. Feilpe Archuleta carved his last sculpture in 1987, due to his progressing arthritis, and he passed away in 1991.

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