by Anne Petersen
The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit at Casa de la Guerra this Saturday, February 2. Junípero Serra in Mexico: Five Missions in the Sierra Gorda de Querétaro includes stunning photographic prints by Pacific Grove-based photographer Jeffrey Becom and exquisitely detailed line drawings by local Santa Barbara writer and artist Richard Perry. Their work features five missions in the Sierra Gorda region of Mexico. The exhibit, curated by scholar Julianne Burton-Carvajal, is making its third stop in Santa Barbara after appearing on view at Carmel Mission and the Museum of Monterey.
2013 marks both the 300th anniversary of Father Junípero Serra’s birth as well as the 50th anniversary of SBTHP, occasions that the organization wanted to mark with a special interpretive project, and this exhibit fits the bill perfectly. The missions and presidio chapels Serra founded in Alta California are well known. Many of our readers also know that SBTHP is the longtime steward of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, a site founded by Father Serra in 1782. Junípero Serra in Mexico highlights a lesser-known part of Serra’s legacy, the missions founded in the remote Sierra Gorda de Querétero.
As you will see in the exhibition, the facades of these five missions are dramatically different from the more familiar missions of Alta California. Elaborately carved and painted, each façade conveys biblical stories through graphic iconography. Although Sierra Gorda is a challenging location to access, we believe that viewing this exhibit is the next best thing to visiting in person! The large-scale photographic prints by Becom are transporting, and the facades and motifs feel almost life size as you stand before them. In contrast, Perry’s small, detailed sketches draw the viewer in to explore the elaborate ornamentation featured in the mission facades.
We invite you to experience this special show for yourself anytime from February 2 – April 28. Casa de la Guerra is open from Noon – 4:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday, admission $5, SBTHP members are free. We are also hosting a free event in the gallery as part of the First Thursday program, March 7 from 5:00 – 8:00 pm. We know you’ll want to learn more about these special places after seeing the exhibit, so we also have a full-color publication by curator Julianne Burton-Carvajal and a gallery guide by Richard Perry available in the shop at Casa de la Guerra and at El Presidio SHP. Still want more? Check out this video with photographer Jeffrey Becom about his Sierra Gorda photographs!
Anne Petersen is the Associate Director for Historical Resources at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation