artist William J. Kalwick Jr. visited
. Kalwick has traveled to the Central American country to paint
about three times annually for the past 18 years. He usually
travels alone and stays for about three weeks. We caught up with
him via e-mail when Kalwick stopped briefly at La Antigua Galeria
de Arte, a gallery in
, on his way to various remote locations. the
market at todos santos was begun in Guatemala, completed in
his Houston studio, and will be on view in June at the Prix de
West Invitational Exhibition & Sale at the National Cowboy
& Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK. This is the
first in a series of columns that invite you to travel along with
artists to their far-flung destinations.
do you enjoy about painting in
first thing that attracted me to
was the colors. The clothing the Indians wear is so vivid. I had
never seen anything like it before in my life. Also, the primitive
aspect of the culture, which has changed considerably since the
first time I visited
, attracted me.
have said that when you first started going to
, it reminded you of the Old West. Why? It
reminded me of the old photos of American Indians from the turn of
are the major changes you have seen in
over the past 18 years? Modernization
has affected all aspects of life. The clothing was, for the most
part, handmade and very colorful. It was this color that first
inspired me. Every year there is less handmade clothing and more
manufactured by machine. The architecture has changed from
picturesque adobe structures with red tile roofs to cement block,
bunker-style buildings. Religious celebrations also are changing.
you talk about some traditions that are fading from the culture?
A few years ago in the
San Ildefonso Ixtahuacan
, during their annual fiesta, there would be a religious
procession and nearby villagers in Colotenango would carry their
saints to San Ildefonso. Villagers in San Ildefonso would meet
them with all their saints down by the river, creating a large,
colorful procession. This procession is no longer done.
are the most challenging parts of painting in
Getting to where I want to go, carrying my painting supplies, and
crowd control. The people in these villages have never seen anyone
paint before and are naturally curious. But they can get in my way
and really be disruptive. Many times I just have to pack up my
gear, take a photo, and leave.
painting supplies do you bring with you?
I have an easel that I borrow from a gallery owner, an American
painter living in
. He has a studio that I also use while I am here. I bring
watercolors to use in more remote areas.
are some of the unusual experiences you have had painting in the
One time I was painting in the town of
, and it was market day. There was a man selling vegetables in the
plaza. I liked the way the light was hitting him and the colors of
the produce. So I set up my easel and started painting. It was not
long before there was a crowd behind me. I heard an onlooker
remark that the painting was like a camera but slower.
do you stay?
Usually there will be a family that rents out rooms, or I will
have a hotel in a larger town that I use for my base. I donít
spend much because I am usually somewhere remote, and the hotel is
$3.00 a night.
during the countryís civil war. What precautions did you take?
When traveling in
, then as well as now, I try to be aware of my surroundings. I
feel more comfortable in the countryside. I have had so many
wonderful experiences and very few negative ones. In the 1980s,
when I first fell in love with
, there were a lot of political problems, with demonstrations and
people disappearing. My friends thought I was crazy going to
to paint. But nobody really bothered me, even though there was
military presence everywhere.
is it about traveling that you find inspiring?
Traveling reinvigorates me. When I go to
, I see so many great subjects and I canít wait to get back to
my studio to start new paintings.
do you miss about going to
in 2006 as opposed to 18 years ago?
The traditions and costumes are what I miss the most. I know that
this is a culture in transition. Time does not stay still; it has
just been a little slower in the Guatemalan highlands. I feel
fortunate that I have been able to capture it on canvas before it
is part of history.
is represented by Galeria Antigua, Antigua, Guatemala; The Sylvan
Gallery, Charleston, SC; Whistle Pik Galleries, Fredericksburg,
TX; Texas Art Gallery, Dallas, TX; Wilcox Gallery, Jackson, WY;
Gallery Shoal Creek, Austin, TX; Wadle Galleries, Santa Fe, NM;