In his first solo exhibition at the Uptown Gallery, Grand Forks based ceramicist Guillermo Guardia presents “2 Verdades/2 Truths.”
Running through the remainder of October, the Peruvian native offers his two sculptural lineages or “truths” consisting of torso pieces and baby devils.
Both series were first conceptualized in the early parts of Guardia’s graduate program at University of North Dakota. After receiving his undergraduate degree in industrial architecture in Lima, he relocated to focus in ceramics in the early 2000s.
Guardia credits the North Dakota Museum of Art, and specifically its director, Laura Reuter, for the development and stability of his career. After completing his MFA, he desired to remain in the States, but needed proper documentation.
The Museum sponsored Guardia’s green card, and employed him through their artist in residency program in order to extend his stay.
“If it wasn’t for Laura and the museum, I wouldn’t be here,” Guardia said.
The artist in residency sent Guardia around the state – teaching ceramics in rural schools. The Museum also included his pieces in their biannual auction, which provided a starting platform in showing his work.
As a response to the terrorist attacks and the start of the war in Iraq, and his grueling, time-intensive citizenship process, the devil babies have a mixed narrative of social and personal meaning.
Guardia noted that if a war on the same scale was attached to Peru, the citizens would react more outwardly than what he noticed within American society. He decided to use his objects as a vehicle for
During its development stages, Guardia was experimenting with raku. The Japanese firing technique applies lower levels of heat with rapid cooling. Essentially, the forms are removed from the kiln while still fiery. This process prompted images of hell and the devil from the formerly Catholic ceramicist.
Guardia began experimenting with his desired social commentary through opposing dualities. He attached the purity of babies with the darkness of hell, and the playfulness of an implied game of hide ‘n seek and guerilla warfare.
The weaponry and camouflage designs have developed over the years, becoming especially heavy during the stressful and sometimes hopeless process of obtaining dual citizenship.
In November 2014, Guardia officially received his green card, and a subtle lightness returned to his work. The latest series of babies created since focuses more heavily on South American-style painting techniques and a more direct application of the anti-war metaphors.
Viewers and collectors were misinterpreting the weapons as pro-violence. To prevent future confusion, Guardia added faux flowers in place of bullets.
The puzzle-piece torsos contrast starkly from the baby devils, although both series have been developed simultaneously. The torsos are less abstract in intentions than the devils.
His color choices and puzzle pieces indicate the growth and makeup of the human spirit. With dramatic body language and exaggerated proportions, Guardia explores the possibilities of his medium and form.
“When I’m working with a female torso, I want to emphasize the curve. I want to emphasize the movement,” Guardia said. The females are often orange and blue – contrasting from the more neutrally shaded male objects.
Guardia continued, “When I’m making the male body, it’s more static. There’s more vertical and horizontal lines.”
“2 Verdades/2 Truths” feels like another step toward the direction Guardia hopes to take his work. Showing work in larger cities and progressing the already developing work.
Although North Dakota’s art market is sometimes dismal, Guardia mentioned it still provides more opportunities than what he found in South America.
“Peru is a developing country. My parents and I are middle class, so we’re not connected to the high class or art environment,” Guardia said. “North Dakota is not a big art market, (but) I still found more opportunity than I did back home.”
Guardia’s attitude is generally marked by optimism. He views challenges as an opportunity for growth.
“I think some things that can be a disadvantage can also be an opportunity,” Guardia said.
“2 Truths/2 Verdades” runs through the remainder of October at Uptown Gallery.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Guillermo Guardia’s “2 Truths/2 Verdades”
WHERE: Uptown Gallery
WHEN: Now – end of October
ADDITIONAL INFO: theuptownartgallery.com