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MOCRA Presents Cuentos Nuevomexicanos, an Exhibition of Artists Vicente Telles and Brandon Maldonado

by Maggie Rotermund
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Maggie Rotermund
Senior Media Relations Specialist

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New Mexican Artists Telles and  Maldonado Slated to Attend Opening Reception on March 19

The Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) at Saint Louis University presents work from artists Vicente Telles and Brandon Maldonado in the exhibition, “Cuentos Nuevomexicanos.”  

“Cuentos Nuevomexicanos” will open with a free public reception with the artists from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, March 19. The artists will offer brief remarks at 3 p.m. The exhibition continues through May 21.

From left: Brandon Maldonado, La Boda Nuevo Mexicana (The New Mexican Wedding), 2023. Courtesy of the artist. Vicente Telles, San Sebastián (St. Sebastian), 2022; Ahí Viene Vicente (Here Comes Vicente), 2022. Images courtesy of the artist.

Santos (painted or sculpted images of saints) originated in Spain. The tradition was carried to territories that fell under Spanish colonial rule. New Mexican santeros (makers of santos) developed distinctive approaches that diverged from the models they found in imported oil paintings, statues, and devotional prints. The Santero tradition flourished from the mid-eighteenth to late-nineteenth centuries before falling into a period of decline. Yet it recovered and thrives today, responding to the needs of both religious devotees and art aficionados. 

Telles is firmly rooted in the Santero tradition, while Maldonado describes his work as being heavily inspired by New Mexican folk art. Both artists recognize the classic santeros as artists with agency, who made adaptive choices in response to complex social concerns and matters of faith for their communities. Telles and Maldonado similarly approach the interwoven threads of contemporary New Mexican culture as informed, thoughtful practitioners. Not content with reiterating the past, they passionately engage and adapt a living tradition to tell stories for our times.

About the Artists

Vicente Telles (b. 1983) is a santero and cultural iconographer driven by the desire to honor the culture and traditions of his native New Mexico. Telles began painting traditional retablos using handmade pigments and gesso, but his style has evolved to include experimentation with different mediums such as textiles, hand-pulled papers, and found and repurposed materials. His more contemporary pieces, including his social commentary retablos and on-going border culture series, feature reinterpretations of traditional Catholic and cultural iconography. 

His santos and contemporary pieces transcend religion, allowing Telles to do his part to keep his heritage and centuries of tradition alive and vibrant. More information at

Brandon Maldonado (b. 1980) was raised in Albuquerque, where he grew up on the graffiti art of his barrio surroundings. He rejected the academically painted Southwestern landscapes that seemed a far cry from the graffiti filled streets of his personal reality. However, the culturally rich environment of New Mexico made a lasting impact on his work, which often explores themes associated with Mexican culture. 

Though primarily a self-taught artist, Maldonado holds a B.A. in Humanities with an emphasis on Philosophy and Religion from the College of Santa Fe, and fittingly, he sees his art as a means to express ideas. Maldonado is perhaps best known for his Dia de los Muertos themed images, which he has explored and evolved for over two decades. His image Our Lady of Merciful Fate was featured on the cover of the Zac Brown Band’s 2012 Grammy-winning album Uncaged. More information at


Saint Louis University’s Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) is the first museum to bring an interfaith focus to contemporary art. Officially opened in 1993, MOCRA is located in a spacious chapel that was used for over 35 years by Jesuits studying philosophy at Saint Louis University. Through exhibitions, collections, and educational programs, MOCRA highlights and explores the ways contemporary visual artists engage the religious and spiritual dimensions. MOCRA serves the diverse Saint Louis University community, and the wider public, by facilitating personal discovery, experience, and inspiration, while contributing to a wider culture of interfaith encounter and dialogue. More information at

Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 13,500 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.