Herrera, Nicholas. 2011. HIGH RIDERS, SAINTS, AND DEATH CARS: A LIFE SAVED BY ART. Photos by John T. Denne. Toronto: Groundwood Press. ISBN 0780888998545 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-12]
New Mexico folk artist Nicholas Herrera was out of control by age twelve. After almost dying in a car accident involving alcohol, he changed his ways, instead devoting his energy to his art. A poor student, Nicholas’s art was influenced by his mother, his love of high riders, and his religion. Using found articles and welding to create his own style, he portrayed the everyday view of things in his life—with his own cultural twist. He credits art with “saving my life.”
Brilliant photographs show Herrera’s art in the vivid colors of New Mexico folk art. His sculptures, including motorcycles and cars, are symbolic of people and events in his life. His work has transcended traditional folk art to become fine art speaking to current issues of many people today. The drug and drinking references make this book for teens.
The biography’s appeal lies in the art’s derivation from daily life in a New Mexico town where the artist still lives today. His experiences reflect the decisions many young men encounter and he shows how to move beyond them. This book will speak to many young people facing difficult choices.
Collect several books on sculpture and folk art. Compare the different art forms and identify the emotions reflected in the art. Then have the young people design or write about a folk art sculpture reflecting experiences of their own.
Other books for children about folk art:
Ancona, George. SEE THE FOLK ARTS (VIVA MEXICO!) ISBN 9780761413264
Rothstein, Arden Aibel, and Anya Leah Rothstein. MEXICAN FOLK ART: FROM OAXACAN ARTIST FAMILIES. ISBN 9780764326738
By Shirley Duke