the lurid beauty of new mexico's lowrider car culture

The unique Southwestern icon — and the Nuevomexicano artists it inspires — will be celebrated in a Santa Fe exhibition called "Lowrider Summer."

by Hannah Ongley
20 May 2016, 5:45pm

As 50s-vintage Chevys are to Cuba and Range Rovers are to Los Angeles, lowrider cars are an icon of the American Southwest. Two exhibitions are exploring the car's unique hold on the Nuevomexicanos of Santa Fe as part of the Lowrider Summer series at the at the Museum of New Mexico. "The lowrider car is a personal utopia and to enter it is to leave the everyday world behind and to become extraordinary for a while," explains curator Katherine Ware ahead of the opening. And it's not just car models and motorheads who are drawn to the souped-up vehicles either. Local artists frequently use the unique cultural icon as a way to explore their own heritage, as well as issues like gender, religion, and community. The celebration will include a series of photographs depicting local car buffs and their treasured rides. 

Curator Katherine Ware says that while the lowrider's sleazy reputation often precedes it, its status as a home-grown expression of pride is incontestable to locals. "The works in the show confirm what we in New Mexico already know to be true, that lowriders are an extraordinary art form in their own right as well as being a significant cultural icon that ignites the imaginations of people all over the world," she says. "Despite the care and craftsmanship that goes into these cars, they have sometimes had negative associations. Today, we embrace them as unique works of art and a distinctive part of New Mexico culture."

Con Cariño: Artists Inspired by Lowriders
Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico

opens today at the New Mexico Museum of Art, and runs through October 9, 2016. A companion exhibition, , is on at the adjacent Museum of New Mexico until March 5, 2017. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Images courtesy of New Mexico Museum of Art

Santa Fé
museum of new mexico