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Joe Bartolo Lente

(c. 1897 - c. 1953)
Joe Bartolo Lente was a native of Isleta Pueblo, located south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Lente was a self-taught artist. In 1935, after he saw Elsie Claws Parsons' monograph Isleta (1923), which was part of the forty-seventh annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Lente wrote the BAE asking if the bureau would be interested in purchasing some of his paintings. Lente's paintings and drawings depicted the closely held rites and religious rituals of Isleta culture. Sharing these cultural secrets was forbidden, but Lente offered to depict them if the BAE kept the artist's identity a secret. The BAE did not reply, and six months later Lente contacted them again, including several drawings and paintings in his correspondence. This time the BAE forwarded Lente's artwork to Elsie Parsons, who paid him $10 and requested more artwork. 

Parsons and Lente collaborated for five years, until Parson's death in 1941. During this time, Lente produced more than 140 drawings that represented a page-for-page illustrated companion to the 1932 monograph. Parsons never betrayed Lente's identity, and referred to him as "Felipe" in her writings. Parsons and Lente enjoyed an extensive correspondence, but they never met in person. 

Lente's paintings are not stylistically inventive, but their purpose is to document and report. They portray Lente's Isleta culture witha a keen sense of detail and accuracy. They are of particular value because they depict religious ceremonies of the Pueblo of Isleta, access to which was barred to all but the initiated members of the various Pueblo ritual societies. Anthropologist Byron Harvey said about Lente's paintings, "No single series of paintings approaches the frankness of the Parsons series in dealing with tabooed subjects such as death and witchcraft."

Lente is considered one of the most important Pueblo painters, and is the biographical subject of Esther Schiff Goldfrank's The Artist of "Isleta Paintings" in Pueblo Society, Smithsonian Press, 1967.