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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Paula Rodriguez working on a straw appliqué piece, 1983
Paula Rodriguez working on a straw appliqué piece, with her husband Eliseo Rodriguez at her side, Santa Fe, NM, 1983.

Paula Rodriguez: Straw Appliqué

Paula Rodriguez has practiced this Spanish colonial art form since 1936, when she learned it from her husband, Eliseo J. Rodriguez, who revived it under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration, a federal arts project.

Straw appliqué developed in 16th century Europe as an affordable alternative to expensive wood and ivory inlay. Brought to Mexico by Spanish colonists, straw appliqué became popular in New Mexico by the early 19th century. This intricate art consists of gluing tiny pieces of straw onto a darkened wooden surface to produce delicate geometric and figurative designs. The most common items produced are crosses, niches, frames and boxes. By the 1930s, few straw applique artists remained in New Mexico. Eliseo Rodriguez essentially reinvented the art during the WPA program. His wife, Paula, was studying and experimenting in the work, including the serigraphy process, with her husband every step of the way.

Mrs. Rodriguez has taught the straw appliqué art form to her children and grandchildren. Her golden crosses and panels reflect her strong devotion to God and family.

Both her and her husband's work have been collected by the Smithsonian Institution, the Millicent Rogers Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, and the Albuquerque Museum. Private collectors from the United States, Europe and Mexico have purchased their work at Santa Fe's Spanish Market.

Documentation comprises a project report, flyers, a magazine article, photographs, and a video.

Originally submitted by: Jeff Bingaman, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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