Luis Alberto Mora Valencia

Luis Alberto Mora Valencia (born c.1940) is a master Mexican santero who is keeping alive the santero tradition. He is self taught, drawing on his natural talent and his rigorous Jesuit education. In the decades that he has worked he has created hundreds of bultos for churches and private collectors throughout Mexico and the United States. His work is in the permanent collections of the Albuquerque Museum, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts in Santa Fe, and Regis University in Denver.

He works in the traditional method, dating back centuries. He begins with a block of wood, either sabino (bald cypress), mahogany, or cedar. He next makes a guiding sketch. Then with chisels, adzes, mallets, saws, and wood files he works on details. The arms and hands are assembled, using pegs when necessary. Next he uses medium grain sandpaper to smooth the surface and eliminate tool marks. Then he puts in glass eyes, and with strips of cloth he covers any oepnings in the wood. He applies a misture of water and rabbit skin glue over the wood, followed by several coats of gesso over the whole surface. Immediately after he applies red clay, called bol de armenia, as the base for gold or silver leaf. Next he applies the leaf, which he burnishes with agate and then seals the surface with lacquer. He then paints the skin tones he paints with five or six coats of oil-based pigments. After each coat he rubs the flesh surface with a piece of sheep’s bladder. Next he makes the floral and leaf designs over the leaf, followed by polychrome. Then, using small chisels, he carves fine details in the clothing, followed by the finishing touches: eyebrows, eyelashes, mouth. After a few days he applies patina to age the piece.