Patrocinio Barela started out as a carver of bultos (religious sculptures), depicting traditional figures of saints, but later focused on subjects that were more expressive of his everyday experiences and feelings. Barela, who spent most of his life as a wood carver in Taos, New Mexico, worked from 1936 to 1943 under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project.
Hispanic-American Art (brochure, Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art)
Patrociño Barela ran away from Taos, New Mexico, when he was twelve. He wandered from state to state for the next twenty years, working a wide variety of odd jobs and carving whenever he had the chance. In 1930 a friend asked him to fix a broken carving of a santo (saint) and Barela enjoyed it so much that he started making his own religious images. During the New Deal years, he worked for the Works Progress Administration “[hauling] dirt and gravel” until someone noticed his carvings and asked him to become a craftsman instead. Barela created sculptures based on current events as well as stories from the Bible. (Patrociño Barela, Oral History, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)