Untitled Coalminer #1, by artist Maye Torres stands before the Miners' Colfax Medical Center. Photograph by Kate Nelson.
TEN FEET TALL, HE RISES BEFORE the Miners’ Colfax Medical Center, his bronze clothing and body worn away, as if by erosion. Helmeted and carrying a pickax, he gazes at arriving patients. His spine stands exposed, each vertebra bearing a face—tributes to the many coal miners who once worked the hills around Ratón. In the late 2000s, Taos-area artist Maye Torres crafted Untitled Coalminer #1, one of nine works she created for the hospital. The sculpture immediately drew complaints that its eaten-away parts insulted miners’ hard work or belittled their lingering health problems. Others saw a resemblance to filmdom’s RoboCop and dubbed it “RoboMiner,” leading to at least one disheartened online review: “Total waste of a trip. We were looking forward to ‘Robo Cop’ but it has nothing to do with robo cop or cyborgs, it’s just a stylized coal miner.” Happily, the Ratón community came around to seeing Torres’s “superhero miner” vision. “He’s like a Paul Bunyan guy,” she says. “It came from a real place in me. Without those miners, we wouldn’t have the electricity we take for granted.”
Untitled Coalminer #1 stands outside the Miners’ Colfax Medical Center, 203 Hospital Drive, in Ratón.