I don’t usually write about exhibits that are temporary, but I’m making an exception today because of Orlando Martinez. The temporary show’s in Santa Fe’s New Mexico History Museum. It opened May 1, 2016, and will close on March 5, 2017. It’s paired with another exhibition on the same subject, “Con Cariño: Artists Inspired by Lowriders” that will continue until October 9, 2016, at the New Mexico Museum of Art across the street. It and “Lowriders, Hoppers, & Hot Rods: Car culture of Northern New Mexico”, which is currently at the History Museum, are both under the title Lowrider Summer.
I saw my first Lowrider in New Mexico several years ago but still knew nothing about them, so I asked Orlando to explain a quote on a wall in “Lowriders, Hoppers & Hot Rods”. Olivanna Rael said, “When he first told me he was going to be a lowrider, I cried. I went to my prayer-book leader and said, “I need prayer. My son’s going to be a lowrider.” Orlando told me that when the craze began it was associated with gang members and drug dealers. Hence Olivanna’s concern. But no more. It’s now an obsession for many Hispanic males. “It’s part of our culture here,” Orlando explained. After he complained about the cost of Lowrider magazines, he took me over to meet his baby. It took him 6 years to transform the 1983 Monte Carlo below into a stunning Lowrider. Orlando Martinez was exceedingly proud that it was included in the show. The biography by his dream car noted that he bought a set of gold Dayton rims for $4,000 before he even owned it. I told him about Houston’s Car Art Museum and encourage him to contact them for a possible future display of it.
This show does a good job of explaining the low ‘n’ slow culture in the Southwest U.S. that involves “gender, family, religion and community”, according to New Mexico’s Museums & Historic Sites Summer Guide 2016. I didn’t fully understand what makes a car a lowrider or how the culture began until I saw this unique exhibit in Santa Fe. After World War II Mexican American men took jobs in aircraft companies. Car-customizing fans among them “began to take hydraulic lifters used to raise and lower a plane’s flaps and put them in the suspension of cars”. Passion resulted.