LOS LUNAS — Valencia County’s very own Nicolas Otero has been selected for the 2019 annual Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts.
This celebration of local artists was established in 1974. Many different types of artists have been awarded this honor, including painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians, storytellers and potters.
The Los Lunas artist is being honored for his many contributions to the community.
Otero has experience in creating retablos, bultos, altars, gesso reliefs, hide paintings and ramilletes, which are paper flowers. He’s worked in oils, encaustics and uses whatever medium inspires him at the time.
“Encaustic is the art form that involves painting with colored wax. Natural pigments are added,” Otero said. “The work I do is based on the Fayum portrait tradition as well, but I kind of bounce around when I’m working in the studio.”
When asked what this award meant to him, Otero was beaming with excitement.
“It’s validation that I’m on the right track ...,” he said. “It’s something that I hold very dear to my heart and it means a lot to me. It kind of makes me feel like I’ve lived a meaningful life.”
On top of being a full-time art teacher at Bosque Farms Elementary, Otero is active with the Spanish Colonial Art Society. The organization sponsors the traditional Spanish market held in Santa Fe, where he got his start doing devotional artwork.
He is also involved with Los Lunas Friends of the Library and Museum in Los Lunas, and recently joined the board to promote art to locals.
“It’s a challenge to spread my time but I think I did a pretty good job,” Otero said.
Recently, he’s been gravitating toward abstract concepts and mixed media, such as wax, re-purposed materials and tin.
An avid collector of art himself, Otero said anything can serve as inspiration for him, such as artists, music and experiences.
“Start to broaden your horizons and go outside of your community; don’t stop making experiences for yourself because that’s what is going to inspire you,” Otero said.
Otero is excited to be representing the community he loves. His involvement in the local art community is proof of how much he wants to see it grow.
“I think it’s cool to be part of this community because I don’t see myself as one singular entity of it.” Otero said. “The word ‘community’ itself means we’re all working together to do something meaningful.”
What excited him the most about this experience is knowing that his home state recognizes his art in the same capacity as other well-known artists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe and George R. R. Martin.
“I’m a very proud New Mexican ... Just to see that our state values all the different types of arts is also pretty cool, and to be selected in that mix is pretty amazing to me.”
Otero’s parents, Steven and Jeanette, have been his constant support system, and his son has served as motivation for him to succeed. He tries to make them proud in everything he does.
“When I see their excitement, when I see them smile, that is an awesome gift to be able to give. My success is their success,” Otero said.
For the local artist, art is much more than a hobby or interest, it’s what fuels him.
“I think in life we’re always grappling for something to give us meaning for our existence, and I think my art and my passion for art has helped me to see that purpose.”
The artwork of the artists being honored for the award will be exhibited in the Governor’s Gallery at the State Capitol from noon to 4 p.m. and is open to the public.
The awarded artists and their families will be hosted by the Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at the governor’s mansion for a private lunch.
The awards ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, at the St. Francis Auditorium in the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.