SAN LUIS — The actual loss is impossible to estimate following a Dec. 4 fire that destroyed the studio of Huberto Maestas in the old county shop building.
Maestas is a world-famed artist and the fire became widespread news.
Huberto is acclaimed, not only for the near-life-sized Stations of the Cross Shrine on the Hill of Piety and Mercy, towering over the small, historic town, but for sculptures in Taos, N.M., Pueblo, Colo. and many other locations. His “El Pastor” herds sheep outside the Colorado Welcome Center in Alamosa.
Miniatures of them are in a collection at the Vatican Museums in Rome. Huberto created these and, in 1991, had them shipped to Rome, then flew out to personally present them to Pope John Paul II.
Huberto's sculptures are outstanding and extremely meaningful as well as spiritual. Casting molds of these and their large counterparts were burned in the fire, along with works in progress and work by other renowned artists.
Not only was it the workshop of Huberto, it was the studio of Aubin, who sculpts in stone, grandson Amyas, an accomplished sculptor at age 14 and daughter Bianca, a skilled painter and photographer.
There was no insurance due to the age of the building, which was built in the 1920s.
Not allowed to enter the building the morning after the fire, Maestas said the cause of the blaze hadn’t been determined and wouldn’t be until a fire marshal investigated.
That inspector arrived Sunday and traced the origin to an area around the fireplace, according to Aubin. The actual cause is still unknown,
Looking down at the ground, author Dana Maestas, wife of Huberto and matriarch of the family, said of the loss, “Thirty years of our lives – gone.”
Dana recently published a picture book, “San Luis,” commissioned by Images of America.
Born of a family that traces its roots at least five generations back in Costilla County, Huberto found his love of art at an early age, then met acclaimed artist Edwin Clemmer at Adams State College, now Adams State University, who took him under his wing.
Some of Clemmer’s work was destroyed in the fire.
Beginning by painting and drawing, Huberto learned to carve wood at age 10, then grew into his teens creating intricately detailed works of art, a skill that matured with him.
After studying sculpture at Adams State, he began working in a foundry, learning the skills necessary in the final stages of casting bronze sculpture, then returned to San Luis, where he and Dana live and have raised their family.
Huberto’s work emerges from his heart, so the loss of his huge studio and all of its contents hit him hard.
“It’s all lost,” he said. This includes works by Luis Jimenez and other renowned artists who are no longer living, as well as those who are living and creating.
Not only is the family’s artwork gone, work accumulated over the years by other artists is lost and the medals that once adorned Huberto’s father during the Korean Conflict have fallen prey to the flames.
The Maestas family has lost the past 30 years worth of tools, equipment, materials, and many other valuable items involved in the business. One-of-a-kind art pieces were lost in the fire, along with their castings and those of other artists that were in the foundry at the time of the fire.
Some brass pieces survived due to the fact that heat must exceed 1,000 degrees Celsius — 1,500 Fahrenheit — to melt bronze and Huberto said his two furnaces still stand.
Huberto said his old studio/foundry still exists, though it is filled with old castings and other “junk,” which he will deal with before going back to work there.
As he paced back and forth in front of the place he visited daily and created his artwork, his phone rang. A customer was concerned about loss.
“It’s hard to explain,” he said quietly after the call ended.
The old building, which housed the family’s creative world, was built in the 1920’s and served as the Costilla County Shop. The sign above the door tells that history while a series of handprints next to the entrance are the marks of a family.
A gofundme page has been set up to help Maestas and his family. In three days, $13,268 of the $50,000 goal had been raised.
Renowned artist Leo Tanguma said via BJean on the gofundme page, “the tragic electrical fire is a terrible setback for this important artist. He needs community support to continue his work.”
The page was set up by Maria Valdez Bloomfield. “The entire structure is lost. If possible, we are asking for help to get them back on their feet and rise from the ashes.”
To donate, visit Huberto’s Sculpture Studio at gofundme.