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Internationally-acclaimed Santa Fe artist Frederico Vigil uses fresco painting to keep traditional Hispanic cultural values alive. His work at the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe commemorates the Cuatro Centenario celebration of 400 years of Spanish settlement in New Mexico. Vigil also has frescos at The Albuquerque Museum, the College of Santa Fe and other major institutions.
"Frederico Vigil is particularly important because he is a homegrown New Mexican who has grown far beyond the geographic boundaries of the area," Spanish Colonial Arts Society Museum director Stuart Ashman said. Vigil pursues fresco painting because of its permanence and its connection to New Mexico's history. "The ancient Indians knew how to paint frescos before the Spanish came but they forgot how to do it. When Diego Rivera and other Mexican artists wanted to learn fresco painting they had to study in Italy," Vigil said. Vigil learned the painstaking technique from Stephen Dimitroff who was Rivera's lead assistant fresco artis
Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1946, Frederico M. Vigil is a self-taught artist whose first paintings were copies of retablos (religious paintings of Catholic saints on wooden boards). In 1976, he left his job with New Mexico's Environmental Improvement Division to take up painting full time. He became fascinated with the art of fresco, especially the works of Michelangelo and the Mexican master Diego Rivera, and in 1984, did an intensive apprenticeship with fresco masters Lucienne Bloch and Stephen Dimitroff in Gualala, California.
Vigil's work celebrates his own Hispanic roots, as well as the religious and historic heritage of his native New Mexico and the Southwest. His materials, pure natural pigments, sands, lime and colored soils, come from the earth of New Mexico and bear a natural relationship to the adobe walls also found in the Southwest. Always looking for that perfect wall, Vigil is preoccupied with finding an expanse of any size to turn into a work of art. He has also completed frescoes in chapels, colleges and universities, outside of school buildings and other public facades.
He has been very active in a group of Hispanic artists, La Confradia, that formed in 1978 to show their own work outside of the established Santa Fe "art scene," from which they felt excluded. Aside from his frescos, Vigil has exhibited his work at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of American Indian Art, Saint John's College in Santa Fe and at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, the Museo de Arte e Historia in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, among others.
The revival of the art of fresco in the Southwest can be largely attributed to Vigil. While reaching its peak in 16th century Italy, the art of fresco has been present in the Americas long before then and can be found in Meso-American pyramids and Anasazi kivas, among other locations.