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A Felipe Benito Archuleta New Mexico Folk Art tobacco tin can ashtray with a stylized human face, 1985

Felipe Benito Archuleta (1910-1991) was one of the most wildly imaginative and original folk artists anyone has ever seen. From his humble little shack and woodyard in rural Tesuque, New Mexico, some ten miles north of Santa Fe, he created an entire world of uniquely carved and decorated creatures; a whole menagerie of animals and birds and other carved figures with a life all their own, imbued with totally distinct personalities and appearances. Often, as with this piece, there is a distinct family resemblance of Felipe’s figures to their creator.

Interestingly, this piece is recycled, repurposed raw “found” materials somewhat before these ideas became trendy; Marcel Duchamp, Picasso and Georges Bracque, had explored the use of such “found” materials in making sculpture. It’s doubtful that Archuleta, who was basically as illiterate in Spanish as he was in English, would have seen their sculptural work, but he would probably have appreciated it and vice-versa. We are also struck by the thought that Felipe bought the tobacco can for the tobacco in it to hand make his cigarettes and then he re-purposed the can into a piece of functional and whimsical art to receive the very ashes of the tobacco that had originally come in it.

The tobacco can ashtray measures 4 1/4” in height and 3” in width and it is slightly more than 3/4” in depth. It is in excellent original condition and it is properly signed with an etched-in “F.B.A.” on the front and dated with an etched-in “4-20-85” on the back. The Velvet brand smoking tobacco tin can still has its original paper price sticker of 69 cents affixed to the top lid.

This piece has an absolutely perfect provenance, we recently acquired it directly from the personal collection of Murdoch Finlayson of Santa Fe who was one of Felipe Archuleta’s longtime closest friends and confidantes and who is one of the leading authorities on his work. Finlayson acquired the ashtray directly from Felipe Archuleta at his Tesuque home and studio in 1985-86.

This is a wonderful piece of highly-expressive and creative folk art by one of the world’s greatest recognized Folk Art geniuses.

Price $850

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Felipe Benito Archuleta in Tesuque, NM

Photo copyright 1976 by Davis Mather