Erin Currier

Preparatory Tres Homies I

Pen, ink, china marker, and gouache on paper, Image: 11.5"h x 8.25"w, framed: 16.5"h x 12.75"w, Item No. 18513,

Tres Homies evolved over the course of the Summer from the moment of its serendipitous inception: One of my patrons, and I were having coffee at Cafecito one morning, and he showed me a photograph he had taken of his buddy, renowned chef Fernando Ruiz, standing together with Ralph Martinez, and Toby Morfin, at a fundraiser that the four men had participated in.  I immediately said, “hey: that’s my friend Toby!” (Toby has curated art shows and events that I have participated in—many of which help raise money for various social programs). The patron and I reflected on how tough, strong, and formidable the guys looked in the photo, and yet how compassionate they are— and how limitless their hearts.. At that moment, Fernando himself joined us for coffee. The two of them discussed a restaurant they dream of opening, and, suddenly, my patron had a genius epiphany (which happens quite often— one realizes as one gets to know him: a visionary entrepreneur and patron of the imagination): a painting celebrating the three men that will one day hang in Fernando’s restaurant for all to see and enjoy! The timing could not have been more fortuitous: as I was hard at work on my new series that explores how individuals utilize their passions to overcome adversity in order to transform their lives! Ralph’s, Fernando’s, and Toby’s respective stories epitomize this theme.

Ralph Martinez, born and raised in beautiful Española Valley, is a son, brother, father, grandfather, nephew, and friend. In his own words, “I have been through my fair share of challenges in my life and I am not afraid to admit them. I have fought many struggles that I was blessed to overcome.” Ralph suffered a severe addiction to heroin and cocaine from 2001-2012; as a result, he lost everything, and became homeless for six years- living under bridges, in tents, and in abandoned buildings. Nine years ago, he was able to get clean, and reestablish his life. In the past few years, he as become a pillar in his community: opening the first ever homeless shelter in Española: the Pathways Homeless Shelter, as well as taking on leadership roles in various grassroots community organizations, and is currently running for Municipal Judge!

As Ralph was able to utilize his passion for family and community to empower and uplift himself and those around him; Fernando Ruiz’ passion for cooking saved his life, and has become a gift for so many. As a boy, Arizona native Fernando claimed that he wanted to be a priest, however, he instead quickly became seduced by a different kind of boy’s club: the dangers and glamor of ganglife. As a teenage gangster, he recalls “living the high life with women, cars, and lots of money,” in and out of jails, and running guns and drugs. Upon spending his 21st birthday in a prison cell, he vowed to turn his life around. He got out, moved to New Mexico, and, with the help of his wife and his lifelong love of cooking, he became a chef. He went on to win a number of cooking shows including “Chopped”, and beat the unbeatable Bobby Flay! Fernando Ruiz is widely considered to be one of the Kings of Southwestern Mexican American style cooking,, and has been at the helm of some of New Mexico’s most beloved restaurants including Milagro, Santacafe, and Palace Restaurant. 

Like Ralph, Toby Morfin was born and raised in Española; unlike Ralph or Fernando, Toby was able to steer clear of drugs, gangs, and the darker underbelly of human existence that many particularly creative and sensitive humans become entrenched in. Toby’s passion for art and automobiles have protected him from pathos. Toby grew up watching his father, grandfather, and uncles, work on and rebuild vintage cars, and easily learned from them. From the earliest age, he was also a voracious renderer of cars and trucks—a talent his family quickly recognized and encouraged. In his own words, “Having lived all over the Southwest, my artwork has been heavily influenced by the rich and diverse cultures of the Hispanic and Native American people who reside there. The vast majority of my work is based off of my everyday life experiences, observations, and visualizations of my surroundings.” Toby is not only a respected and established artist working in multiple mediums; he is a rising star in the curatorial world as well— curating and bringing forth the arts, culture, and artists of Northern New Mexico that are so beloved and inspiring to him in exhibitions such as “Santo Lowride” at The Harwood Museum in Taos that are garnering attention not just on a regional and national level- of the unique nature of New Mexico’s art scene— but on an international one.

In Tres Homies, I have combined the trash and ephemera— ie the “post-consumer waste” I’ve collected all over the world, with some of Fernando’s menus and recipes, Toby’s snowboard passes, postcards and flyers from the many events he has organized, a drawing done by Toby’s own daughter, and a number of materials provided by the subjects. I used my own materials such as Chile labels and skateboard playing cards and hubcap packaging to further reference their story. It was important to me to reference the women in their lives, who I know have played a key role in all of their successes; the many Guadalupes, the undershirt packaging from Turkey, the Pulp Fiction page from an old TV guide, etc., all speak to the importance of “the girls beside the guys”, the mothers who raised them, and the guys’ own feminine side! The Pathways Homeless Shelter—upon which Toby painted a mural, is in the background; as is Fred Rael’s famous 1964 Chevy Impala, “Boulevard Legend”: the pride and joy of Española and of New Mexico’s Lowrider.