Betty Byerley Retablo Collection

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September 21, 2018 – March 24, 2019

Retablos are one form of the religious art of Mexico. Painted on tin, these small, personal devotional paintings were purchased from artists/peddlers, who offered them door to door or sold them at stands set up around village churches during holidays and feast days. Retablos may depict Christ, Mary, the Virgin of the Guadalupe, the Holy Family, the Trinity as well as the Saints. These paintings were placed in home altars and were appealed to for help in times of trouble and thanked for life’s blessings. The retablos on display are selections from the Betty Byerley Retablo Collection, part of the Museum of the Big Bend’s Permanent Collection.

Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Miller was born October 17, 1927 and was raised on her family’s ranch in far West Texas near the town of Valentine. Her parents, Espy and Lucy Miller, purchased a home in Fort Davis in 1930 and Betty and her older brother Clay Espy Miller and sister Lucy Miller graduated from Fort Davis High School. She attended Texas State College for Women in Denton and the University of Texas at Austin.

She married Leon Geddis Byerley Jr. and in 1952 they moved to live in Midland where they raised three children; Beth, Geddis, and Dan.  Though her college major was health and physical education, her other lifelong passion was archaeology. She pursued this interest through reading, involvement in the Midland Archaeological Society and the Museum of the Southwest, and in their travels to the Mediterranean, Turkey, Egypt, North Africa, Scandinavia and Great Britain.

Betty and Leon Byerley made many trips to Mexico to visit archaeological sites and museums. The artistic traditions and religious devotion of the people fascinated her and they began collecting retablos in the 1960s. Leon framed many in his own hand carved frames. They provided beauty and interest to their home for 30 years. Betty died of cancer in 1996.

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