During my time in Asuncion I helped jury the National Engraving Competition which was organized by the Centro Cultural Paraguayo Americano (CCPA) and the Comite Paraguay Kansas (CPK). Adriana Duarte was the contest winner and the award includes a trip to Kansas in 2016 to visit regents universities. I will be coordinating Adriana’s visit next year to Emporia State University. While in Asuncion, I gave two presentations of my artwork and two technical demonstrations of engraving with a burin. All events were enthusiastically attended and included a range of professors, students and friends of the arts. I also saw a range a student work and work of professors during my visit. I visited the Museo de Barro and galleries featuring historical and contemporary artists. I made studio visits to artists including Carlo Spatuzza, Gustavo Beckelman, Juan Pistilli and Luvier Casali.
Friday, November 13
3:00pm: I met with Meli Peña at the CCPA office to organize my agenda and the presentations of my work, as well my burin engraving demonstrations.
7:00pm: Meli Peña brought me to a photography opening of student work at The Manzana de la Rivera. The exhibition addressed a variety of subject matter including portraits, architecture and socio political themes. It was there that I first met Laura Martinez (volunteer with CCPA), who would help with the rest of the trip.
Saturday, November 14
9:00am-12:00pm- Shortly before jurying the competition, I met with Ludmila Centurion who would be my translator for one of the presentations and both of the demonstrations. The engraving competition took place in the library of the CCPA. The judges included: Gloria Pistilli (Amigos del Arte), Fabiola Adam (Serigraphy Professor at Instituto Superior de Arte), Osvaldo Real Torres (Art Critic, Independent Curator) Gladys León (Printmaking Artist). While there was some initial discussion of the works, we elected to each take a blind vote on what we considered the top three works. Once our top three were established, we determined by another vote whom would receive the top prize. The other two works received an honorable mention award. Each of us wrote about the winning work (mine was translated into Spanish) and signed the record as jurors of the event. Later, we compared and contrasted the type of Paraguayan printmaking displayed with work that I have seen in America. Most notably was an emphasis on relief work that is being produced and the use of abstract imagery. Much of this work echoed the hand of Livio Abramo, who is considered the father of contemporary printmaking in Paraguay. I saw similarities in Mauricio Lasansky’s work – considered the father of 20th century printmaking in America.
3:00 pm – In the afternoon, Laura Martinez brought me to the studio of artist Carlo Spatuzza. Sergio Jara (winner of last year’s Sculpture competition) would be our translator. Carlo had an incredible collection of work on display that included artists Livio Abramo, Edith Jimenez (another important Paraguayan printmaker) and Josefina Pla (ceramic artist, below right Sergio and I holding her work). Carlo generously looked through the vast archives of his own work and explained them. The first series he presented were meticulously restored papers that had been burnt (below left, Carlo in purple). This was a reference/homage to an artist who in a fit of rage burned his entire body of work. Carlo also showed me screen printed works of old photographs of his family. Rather than ink, he used powder, which produced a more ephemeral work. I plan to show this process and other experimental approaches to my students.
Sunday, November 15
9:00 am – I went to the Cabildo cultural center where I saw a display of ceramics, devotional sculpture and tribal ceremonial works. There was also a section that delved into the history of Paraguay and Asunción. This included photos of past wars, a detailed model of Asunción, desk of the president, and other artifacts. Outside, I came across a powerful sculpture of Alfredo Stroessner. The work was originally a statue glorifying the former leader. It had been sliced to pieces and submerged into concrete, as an act of defiance towards the ideas of the former President. I also toured the downtown area. Here, I saw murals and visited a small neighborhood being revitalized by the arts. The evening was eventful as it was an election day for a mayor. The evening consisted of hours of fireworks explosions and the honking of horns.
Monday, November 16
9:00 am – Interview at ABC newspaper with Sergio Jara and myself. Sergio spoke of his time in Kansas and challenges navigating through the English language. Sergio was my translator during the interview and I spoke of the artist lecture and burin engraving demonstration that I would be doing later in the week. I also spoke about the exchange program and the benefits of a cross-cultural exchange between Kansas and Paraguay.
10:00 am – I visited the workshop of Luvier Casali. We toured the studio and he showed me his student work. He explained to me the type of non-toxic etch that he used on aluminum plates. I had heard of something similar, but had never tried it before. We made arrangements so that I could see how it worked the upcoming Saturday. He pulled out his portfolio of work. We spoke of the potential of a cross-cultural print exchange and exhibition between many different Paraguayan and American artists. Remarking on the incredible quality of his work, I asked why he did not enter the show when I had seen some his students did. He said he would rather see his students potentially have an opportunity to visit than himself – a testament of the dedication and selflessness of this great teacher.
11:30 am – Interview at Ultima Hora newspaper with Sergio Jara and myself. The content of the interview was very similar the previous. The reporter was very thorough and asked many more questions regarding my engraving technique.
1:00 pm – Lunch with Mirian Mongoles and Laura Martinez. They talked more about the expansiveness of the exchange program as it is linked to six state Kansas universities. They mentioned a number of Emporia State University students who were spending their final semesters student teaching in Paraguay.
3:00 pm – I had a studio visit with Gustavo Beckelman where he showed me a number of his past and current projects. He had a mix of elaborate public art commissions (pictured right) as well as work that was more conceptually based. Many of his public pieces are grand in scale and would require months, and in some cases, years to make. He showed one large -scale commission that is displayed in China. Because of shipping costs, this project original was not possible. He elected to design the project with CAD – a computer program, and hired Chinese artisans to fabricate the work there. Gustavo’s other work included projects inspired by the Tower of Babel and other works of contorted figures. Given than many of his commissions are for political figures, it made me curious that his conceptual work was a response.
Tuesday, November 17:
11:00 am – I began to feel the effects of a cold I had likely picked up on the flight. I was originally, going to go to the market, but was not feeling well. I was taken to the farma where I purchased throat spray and sinus medicine. I also went to the supermarket for food. In order to fulfill the agenda for the rest of the trip, I was very conscious of the amount of rest I should be getting, as well as my food intake.
3:00 – 5:30 pm – I returned to Luvier Casali’s studio to give a burin engraving workshop to his students. There were thirteen people in attendance and Ludmila Centurion was my translator. I discussed drawing and image transfer techniques, sharpening techniques and how to properly hold the tool. I had a copper plate available for the students to practice with. One student was very enthusiastic and did a lot of engraving, so I left a burin with her. In the second half of the demonstration, I showed how I print my plates. I brought my latest engraving to print. I left copies of the print there for students who assisted. At this presentation and all others that followed, I wrote my name and social media information on a dry erase board and invited everyone to network with me in hopes that we are able to collaborate in the future.
7:30 – 8:30 pm – Awards ceremony at the Galeria Agustin Barrios of the Centro Cultural Paraguay y Americano. All works submitted to the competition were displayed in the gallery. Students, professors, Amigos del Artes, CCPA, judges of the awards and art supporters contributed to the turnout of the show (approximately 50). During the ceremony, I was acknowledged by Peter Jones, the Executive Director of CCPA, as a visiting artist from Kansas and as one of the judges of the awards. I spoke of the importance of the CPK exchange program and the potential it has in the future. The winner of the competition, Adriana Duarte, was then announced. Honorable mentions went to Rodrigo Velazquez and Natalia Moreno
Wednesday, November 18:
9:00 am – I gave a presentation on my work to professors and students (approximately 50 in attendance) at Instituto Superior de Arte, part of the Nacional Universidad de Asunción. Though I was becoming more confident in speaking Spanish, I felt it was best to continue using a translator. My translator, Roiel Benitez, did a fantastic job. Students and faculty were very engaged in the presentation, which led to a lengthy post presentation question and answer session. One of the things that frequently got brought up during the trip was the American use of the word “engraving”. In the United States, in relation to printmaking, it means a process in which a burin is used to carve into metal. In Paraguay and other countries, it appears to mean anything done in metal or wood. I also spoke about experimentation within the area printmaking involving mixed media, installation and sculpture. I wrote down names of well known contemporary American artists who pursue this type of work.
I was given a tour of the Superior Artes buildings. The buildings were covered in many murals, one of which told the history of the school (below).
The sculpture room (below) as well as the outside of it, was covered in meticulously placed tile – a collaboration between student and faculty. It was inspiring to see this type of work happening in the school.
9:00 am – 1:00 pm – I was taken to a ceramics studio in the nearby town of Aregua, belonging to ceramic artist Osvaldo Camperchioli. I have only worked with clay a few times, so Osvaldo served as an instructor for me. I produced a few small sculptures that described as being reflective of my scrollwork style.
3:30 pm – After lunch, Laura Martinez and I went to the Museo de Barro where I received a detailed tour of the museum from Diego Alvarez. There was an incredible range of work displayed that encompassed much of the history and culture of Paraguay. Much of the contemporary work delved into the recent political history. The collection of devotional artworks was astounding. Numerous glass cases were packed with variations on the crucifix that were produced by Christian-converted tribesmen. I collected a number of catalogues and brochures about the exhibits and will be sharing them in my class semester.
Friday, November 20:
10:00 am – I spent the morning in Juan Pistilli’s workshop. This space consisted of a gallery, living quarters and an outside studio space. Juan produces many large scale public art sculptures. Many of his works are inspired by animals – particularly birds. As we discussed his vast amount of work, he spoke of a memorial piece that he created for the biennale. The work was created in memory of hundreds of people who lost their lives in a grocery store fire. The sculpture was a bird transforming into many smaller birds. Each of the small birds had the name of a victim. Juan cited this work as his greatest accomplishment, in that he could give something so powerful back to the community. We spoke of the potential power and importance public art can have in a community. Pictured to the right are Gloria Jara (Juan’s Assistant), Juan Pistilli, Gloria Pistilli (Juan’s mother) and myself.
Saturday, November 21:
9:00 am – I gave an artist presentation followed by an engraving workshop at the Cabildo cultural center to about forty people. Ludmila Centurion was the translator. The crowd was a mix that included professors, students, professional artists, friends of art and others. I spoke of utilizing both traditional art historical influences in my work and pop culture influences, such as horror movies and comic books. I tried to instill in the students present that it was important to make work about things that directly affected in them in life. Per request of some of the faculty present, I also discussed the difference between being inspired by an artist or referencing one as opposed to copying someone else’s work. The last section of my artist presentation focused on commission based works. I spoke to students about transferring their artistic skill sets into areas that they may not have otherwise attempted and how this challenge can make you a better artist overall.
The second part consisted of a burin engraving workshop, where I explained sharpening, holding the tool and proper carving technique. I passed around examples of tools and plates and invited anyone to try carving into a plate. I also discussed the versatility of the techniques’ application and being able to use it for printmaking, but also for a wide variety of object ornamentation. Both presentations were well received and I answered many questions about my work and the process of engraving. At the end of the presentation, I received a copy of the biennial catalogue and other biennial paraphernalia, as well as a portfolio of reproductions of old prints. I also received an additional catalogue copy that I donated to the Emporia State University Library collection.
4:00 – 7:00 pm – I was invited once again to Luvier Casali’s workshop, but this time as a student. While I have done many etchings, Luvier was doing a different non-toxic etching technique I had never before used that he called a “salt etch”. Within three hours, I had drawn, etched, and printed an intaglio plate (pictured below). Like before, I let a student print the plate and all those that assisted in any way received a print. I am hoping to use this process in my own class as it is safer and much more cost efficient than what we are currently using in the studio.