Ricardo López

Born in 1902 to José Dolores López and María Candelaria Trujillo in Córdova, New Mexico, Ricardo was married to Benita Reino and was the younger brother of George (see George López biography). Although his work was earlier known under the name of his wife (most of the wives of the Córdova male artists do the detail “chip” carving), in 1927 Ricardo started signing his larger pieces.

After World War II, Ricardo quit carving human forms for two reasons: he believed they may be interpreted as “graven images” that might be idolized, contrary to the Commandments, and “because it is wrong to sell the saints to the tourists.” He later became known for his “Trees of Life”, birds, and other animals. Speaking of Ricardo and Benita, Charles L. Briggs, in The Wood Carvers of Córdova, New Mexico (The University of Tennessee Press, 1978), writes: “They are quite imaginative and have innovated a number of features in carvings of this genre. Curved branches often grace trees, and piglets nurse from the sow in neat rows . . . Benita and Ricardo have mastered the art of carving these intricate figures, and their repertoire of such pieces is possibly the largest.”

In June 1977 Benita died and Nora Cerrano, their daughter, began carving with Ricardo. The two worked together until Ricardo’s death in 199_. Although his father, José Dolores, is the most important santero of the first half of the twentieth century, with work in every major folk art museums including the Smithsonian, Ricardo claimed that he taught his father to carve. As stated by Dr. Briggs in The Wood Carvers of Córdova, “He [Ricardo] states that he innovated the carving of monotone images, that he produced the first examples, and that his father and brothers learned from him. After carving this first group of images, however, Ricardo decided that such work was sacrilegious; he never carved images again.”

Whether he was the innovator or not, if Ricardo had continued to carve human forms, his work would be extremely important today. However, his carvings continue to be very important historically. A collection of Córdova collections is not complete without work by Ricardo.