- Home ›
- Chapel of the Holy Child of Atocha, La Manga, New Mexico ›
Chapel of the Holy Child of Atocha, La Manga, New Mexico
This photograph is the Chapel of the Holy Child of Atocha (Capilla de Santo Niño de Atocha) at La Manga is among the best-known images from Knee's series of New Mexican churches. It is one of many that the artist collected in the mid-1930s, when he ventured in to the countryside in his Hudson automobile in ever increasing journeys, photographing the churches of northern New Mexico. His choice of these subjects and the organization of his composition were influenced by the popular style of American Scene regional art. Knee wanted to capture the unique appearances of the New Mexican countryside, the peace and sense of tradition embodied by local colonial missions or village chapels. This tiny shrine was erected in 1932, at La Manga in the foothills south of Las Vegas, New Mexico. When the resident farmer, Juan B. Ortega, fell ill, his son David prayed, pledging to build a chapel if Juan were to recover. His father did regain health, and David Ortega gathered fellow villagers to build the little chapel using traditional adobe construction methods and folk carving. In a churchyard behind the building became the resting place of the extended Ortega family. Knee's image captures the humble but much-loved shrine, here glorified by nature with bright, cloudy Southwestern skies. The building remains much the same today, with the addition of a front porch, a new roof and green trim.
from Acton, A History of Photography at the University of Notre Dame: Twentieth Century (Notre Dame, 2019)