Miguel M. Chavez was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and began his art-making journey under the mentorship of his father and grandfather, “building, remodeling and repairing things around the house and for other people.” Those childhood lessons eventually inspired a full-time commitment to a career in the arts. “I was 18 or 19 when I decided to become a woodworker,” explained the artist in a recent interview. Using traditional carving tools to transform native New Mexico woods into objects of useful and lasting beauty, Chavez works in one of the oldest Spanish colonial art forms, one that has been part of the Land of Enchantment’s creative legacy for more than five centuries. Through astutely observed, time-honored practices, ordinary household items such as chairs, tables and doors are elevated to the extraordinary. The artist’s gift for working in the centuries-old genre — selecting the best kind of wood for the project, carving delicate arches and angles into the chosen variety, hand-finishing the surface to heirloom-quality perfection — produces one-of-a-kind works of art.
In 1992 Chavez was one of 15 New Mexico furniture makers selected to build “art furniture” for the Capitol Building’s permanent collection. Each of his pieces was designed, constructed and hand-finished in the New Mexican/Spanish colonial style, with bold patterns and delicate rosettes carved into naturally colored or richly stained wood. His other projects include restoration of the doors and trim that grace the Professor J.A. Wood House, a historic property in Santa Fe. He also served 12 years as a city council member and county commissioner, striving to develop the city’s arts, culture and tourism attractions. For Chavez, who takes influence from the decorative persuasions of early New Mexico, making things the old way, by hand, one at a time, is not up for compromise. “I have a small studio in my backyard where I produce a limited production of handmade doors and furniture,” he concludes. “I hope those will get passed down to the next generation.” Chavez is represented by Chavez Wood Works, in Santa Fe. For details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A matching pair of chairs and coffee table by Miguel Chavez. Photo by Melanie Metz.
L A N D WAT E R PEO P L E TI M E