The Artistic Odyssey of Higinio V. Gonzales
A Tinsmith and Poet in Territorial New Mexico
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
368 Pages | 9 x 11 | 112 color and b&w illus.
Higinio V. Gonzales (1842–1921) was more than a gifted metalworker. A man of varied talents whose poems and songs complement his work in punched tin, Gonzales transcends categorization. In The Artistic Odyssey of Higinio V. Gonzales, Maurice M. Dixon, Jr., who has spent more than thirty years studying New Mexico tinwork, describes the artist’s signature techniques. Featuring translations of Gonzales’s poetry, this book restores a long-forgotten New Mexican innovator to the prominence he deserves.
Recounting the scholarly detective work that revealed the full scope of Gonzales’s art and career, Dixon tells the story of a craftsman who was also a poet. He begins with Gonzales’s first signed literary work, a handwritten birthday poem decorated with beautifully drawn flowers and birds, dated 1889, and then pieces together the artist’s life and career. Through meticulous research into manuscripts and the dates of tin cans that Gonzales repurposed into elegant, fanciful frames, niches, sconces, and religious decorations, Dixon identifies as Gonzales’s numerous pieces of poetry and tinwork once attributed to anonymous poets and artists. His most important discovery served as a Rosetta stone: an ink wash and watercolor drawing in an ornamental tin frame (housed at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos), whose documented provenance helped Dixon to identify Gonzales’s other artwork.
More than 100 color photographs of Gonzales’s tinwork and more than a dozen translations of the artist’s poetic and musical works punctuate the narrative. Both a catalogue raisonné of a hitherto little-known artist and an anthology of his writings, this book reconstructs the creative life of a long-overlooked talent, one whose quest for beauty resulted in a prolific body of art and literature.