For me, the real meaning of the holidays involves Burl Ives retelling the story of the foggy night that Rudolph led Santa's sleigh, and Brenda Lee rocking around the Christmas tree -- not to mention taking a moment to listen to Vince Guaraldi back up Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and the gang.
Yes, I'm a shameless secularist when it comes to Christmas. But I'm also a devout lapsed Roman Catholic, so I'm a sucker for Nativity scenes, too. In these dioramas, the story of the birth of Christ is illustrated with figurines. The familiar cast includes not only the infant, but Mary and Joseph, some shepherds, three wise men and a varying assortment of barnyard animals. It's a marvelous vocabulary for figural sculpture, as artists have known for centuries.
In the spirit of the season, the Museo de las Américas (861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401) is presenting Mapping Nativity, which compares and contrasts Nativity sets made by the various cultures of Latin America -- including those of the Southwest United States, where the one pictured here was made. The show, put together by Museo curator Kristi Martens, is not a religious-themed endeavor, but clearly a folk-art one. Martens selected the pieces primarily from three private collections: those of La Meta Lubchenco, Florence Hernandez-Ramos and Laura Edmondson.
There are many charming artifacts here, most made of clay and many referencing pre-Columbian aesthetic devices and techniques that have somehow survived the centuries. The final checklist includes just over a hundred sets, most of which are displayed on shelves that line the walls of the main gallery, where a big painted map of Latin America fills much of the floor. In the small gallery up front, Museo director Patty Ortiz has expanded the exhibit to include the work of three contemporary artists: Martin Bonadeo, Gwylym Cano and Virginia Valdes, all of whom deal with the Nativity in videos.
This is a perfect time of year to visit the Museo, especially with Mapping Nativityas the star attraction. It runs through December 31.