Felipe Archuleta makes his sculptures out of wood and other materials he finds himself or obtains from his neighbors. He uses carpenter’s tools to fashion the various parts of each work, and nails and glue to assemble them. He smoothes the joins with a mixture of sawdust and glue, which also builds up the surfaces.
Archuleta’s first sculptures depicted those animals he knew best — sheep, rabbits, burros, and cats. He soon began to make larger, sometimes life-size, animal sculptures, expanding his repertoire to include giraffes, elephants, monkeys, and others based on pictures he found in children’s books and natural history magazines. Archuleta generally emphasizes the ferocious nature of the animals he portrays by providing them with irregularly carved teeth, wide-eyed stares, and exaggerated snouts and genitals.
Felipe Archuleta, who has spent most of his life in Tesuque, New Mexico, worked as a carpenter for over thirty years. In 1967, unable to find work, he prayed to God to alleviate his poverty and desperation. His subsequent religious awakening led to his work as a carver of animals, for which he has been justly celebrated.
Hispanic-American Art (brochure, Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art)
Felipe Archuleta trained as a carpenter and in 1943 joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. He felt the union didn’t give him enough work to support his wife and seven children, however, so he asked God to give him a talent. He started carving a few days later and soon developed a distinctive range of animals with exaggerated body proportions, fierce faces, and sharp claws. (Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia, 1990)