Lowrider Design Challenge

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Low N' Slow

"The Santo Lowride exhibit at the Harwood Art Museum and its sister exhibit, Low 'N Slow, in Arroyo Seco both depict how Santos art and lowrider culture play a big role in Northern New Mexico culture. Combining the two forms of art is what the viewer will see in these art exhibits. Starting with the santos which have a long history in New Mexico dating back to the early 1800s. The Santos are carved religious images made by men called Santeros. Now in modern times, women have started to carve Santeros as well and they are called Santeras. Most Santeros/as have been taught this tradition from generation to generation. They are drawn to carve saints from their strong religious faith and their passion to create art. The best way to preserve tradition is to change it, this is where the contemporary Santeros come into play. The contemporary Santero has combined religious imagery with Northern New Mexico’s lowrider culture. Lowriders in New Mexico have a very long and strong history. The lowrider started in the late 1940’s in Española,New Mexico, which holds the name of 'Lowrider Capital of the World'. These cars are modified... by individuals or families by custom painting with intricate murals and applying colorful patterns using candy paint and the airbrush to lay out the murals. The lowrider is dropped by cutting the coil and then refitted with a hydraulic system so the car can be raised or lowered to the ground...'lower and slower' is their motto. Being co-curator of this exhibit I have seen the religious icons play a big role on the lowrider being used as murals on the truck and hoods of the cars. Nowadays it’s even been taken further by the muralist painting every square inch of the lowrider car, inside and out. The 'Low' culture has evolved in recent years with cars being put in a class of their own and hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in the lowrider. So this lowrider collaboration showcases both worlds, the santos and the lowrider, and how they have become one." Toby Morfin


Toby Morfin

Toby is the curator of the Low 'N Slow exhibit which has inspired the Lowrider Design Challenge. Born in Española in Northern New Mexico, Toby is a multi-faceted Hispanic artist whose work in oil, charcoal, pastel and other mediums is heavily influenced by Hispanic and Native American culture. Elements of Chicano and tattoo art, lowrider culture, Day of the Dead imagery and religious iconography come together to form Morfin’s individual style. The vast majority of his work is based on his everyday life experiences, observations and visualizations of his surroundings.

STEAM skills applied

  • Hydraulics and suspension
  • Engineering design
  • Transportation innovation
  • Futures thinking
  • Pinstriping and airbrushing


"My name is Toby Morfin, artist and curator from Española, New Mexico. I grew up watching my uncles build lowriders from a very young age. We would get together in their body shop on Prince drive in Española and that's where they would do their magic. By magic I mean they would turn these cars in masterpieces using candy paint and spraying layers of candy painted patterns. Then they would finalize the car by putting back on all the chrome. As time went by, once I figured out how to use the materials they used on the cars, I started building my own lowrider bikes. It became my passion and the love I had for this craft just got bigger. I started building my own lowrider car once I was old enough to drive. So nowadays I am very involved with lowrider art and culture. As a curator of fine art I have put together quite a few shows on lowrider art. I have been featured in Lowrider Arte magazine along with a few others. I will continue to do lowrider art and share it with the world, because I believe it’s part of our culture and it should never be forgotten.

Lowriders of New Mexico

Photos by lowrider artist,Corey Gringo, Double Barrel Photography

Space Messengers is made possible in part by the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund for U.S. Alumni; an opportunity sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by Partners of the Americas. This project is supported in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment for the Arts

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