Every child who attended a Santa Fe elementary school made some picture or papier-mâché version of the infamous Zozobra during their academic career. And then, if they were anything like me and my friends, they proceeded to burn at least one of these homemade depictions.
Zozobra, an often-misunderstood tradition, is as much a part of our culture as are green chile roasting and farolitos during Christmastime. For unfamiliar Burqueños or visitors to the state, Zozobra is a 50-foot-tall puppet, deemed “Old Man Gloom,” into which we cast all our troubles every autumn and watch them burn away.
However, as much as Santa Feans appreciate the tradition, very few dream of the day when Zozobra would become a thread in their lives' work. Santa Fe artist Robb Rael is an exception.
Rael organized a group show featuring satirical depictions of Zozobra. The exhibit’s opening reception happens on Sept. 6 from 5 to 8pm, and the show will run through Sept. 15. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Rael's paintings will be shown alongside the work of at least 10 other artists at his business, Get Framed Inc.
Rael’s work has long included this cultural icon. In fact, one of his designs was chosen as the official Zozobra poster in 2009. In general, his paintings tend to contain various New Mexican cultural elements and icons coupled with use of psychedelic colors and patterns. Staring at his bright, fun displays, viewers are challenged to reflect on the meanings behind them.
Though Rael has worked cooperatively with the Kiwanas Club, which hosts the burning of Zozobra, this show is independent of the annual event. While Kiwanas does display depictions of Old Man Gloom, the organization takes care to ensure that he’s not presented in religious or political contexts that may be deemed offensive. On the other hand, Rael sometimes creates to shock people, as he told the Journal.
The show, titled GLÜM – Madder Than the Old Man, will be full of color, culture and wit. Check it out at Get Framed, in the Design Center (418 Cerrillos, Suite 3, Santa Fe).