In 1961, Judith Espinar came across a handmade casserole pot at a marketplace in Mexico. That revelatory pot, which cost her less than $2, inspired a lifetime devotion to folk art -- collecting it, yes, but also championing its traditional artists. In 2004, Espinar co-founded Santa Fe's annual International Folk Art Market. Now the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe is displaying over 200 works from her collection. A Gathering of Voices runs through August.
Judith Espinar was a student in the early 1960s when she found herself "in this field of casserole pots. The painting was very free-form, the colors fought with each other and had an excitement about them. I thought, How could it be that I was studying design for five years and I never heard these two words, 'folk art'? So it was discovering the accessibility of folk art -- that it wasn't intellectual, academic, it's for everyone -- that fascinated me. And I just went at it."
Judith Espinar describes her approach to collecting in this longer version of the interview. In particular, she talks about a pivotal work in her collection, a wooden madonna, Our Lady of Sorrows, by New Mexico santero Felix López. "It's extraordinary in its ability to take you in."