Guido Garaycochea | Artist of the Week

Born in Lima, Peru, Guido Garaycochea studied Art at the "Escuela Nacional Superior de Bellas Artes del Perú" and graduated from art school with several awards and honors. In 1992-‐93, he moved to Chile and resumed his studies there, studying for his Bachelor of Aesthetics Degree and later his Master's degree in History and Theory of Art, later an MFA at SVA. Garaycochea taught Art for many years in Chilean universities before moving to the United States. Once there, he taught at Mitchell College, UCONN, TRCC, and York Correctional in CT.

Garaycochea cofounded Expressiones Cultural Center in New London, CT, in 2009, a non‐profit organization that promotes understanding between the Anglo and Hispanic communities through the arts to bridge cultural differences and showcase Latin American arts and culture. As curator of the artist residency at Expressions, he has promoted and encouraged the careers of numerous Latin American artists. He shares his time working as the New Yorkers program manager at the Queens Museum in New York while keeping his artistic practice alive in his Manhattan studio at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts and participating in various exhibitions.

I question concepts related to sex, gendered representation, and nudity and aspects of gender-nonconformity and the societal pressures and imposition of masculinity and manhood. It also looks at how the queer body has had to heal and survive aspects of the status quo, impacted by capitalism and worldwide power dynamics. I am interested in the normalized, binary construction of gender, assigned at birth based solely on body parts. My collages/mixed media/paintings deconstruct preconceived and traditional categorizations of gender, pushing the viewer to expand their minds and consider new ones. It requires many hours of work, not only to find the necessary images and build a story with them. The cut-out images that I appropriate and work with are placed in backgrounds to work with my brushes and oil colors. Transparent layers of oil paint are placed one over the other, perfecting the depth effects' lights and shadows.

By appropriating, cutting, pasting, and repainting images from popular culture, I create new narratives in my current practice. The scenes in my collages showcase dialogues between fictional characters, similar to children's stories when they play with dollhouses. Characters perform their sexual and gendered identities for the public in a small, self-contained space resembling a theater, looking for acceptance. They all have something to say. At times, they mutter taboo ideas, gossip, and secrets.

Guido Garaycochea

An Interview with Guido Garaycochea

Who are you and what do you do? Why do you do what you do?

I am an immigrant from South America, and I share my time between my artistic practice and my job as a cultural worker. I think I do what I do because I have no other choice, I can't imagine being anything but an artist. Eventually, after developing a career as an artist, I discovered that I could also give back to the community in the role of educator and cultural worker.

How do you work? What’s your background?

My work requires a lot of pause and conversation with the work. It is generally divided into thematic series that last several years and I devote my attention to two series or themes at the same time. It is a work that requires a lot of reading and reinterpretation of reality. Each piece is the product of many months of work.

My trajectory goes from one country to another, reinventing and building my work based on the experiences lived in each country where I have resided. 

What’s integral to the work of an artist? What role does the artist have in society?

The most important thing is the ability to reflect on existence itself and its unanswered questions. The reason for making art is justified by its ability to enrich the lives of people who have access to the work and how it could improve their quality of life. 

How has your practice changed over time?

My practice over time has changed both in the use of materials and in the subject matter of my work. I have gone from being an abstract and contemplative artist to a more analytical artist who is not afraid of materials, their experimentation, and their qualities, without fear of making mistakes, and always ready to take risks. 

What work do you most enjoy doing?

Both the use of materials and the subject have changed over time and as much as I myself have changed, the work is a reflection of myself and my concerns, obsessions, and curiosities. According to the moment, I approach more to paper or oil, or I also experiment with photography, collage, video, and even 3D.

What themes do you pursue?

The themes that call my attention are mainly human behavior. The creation of culture and our strange relationship with nature where we pretend to be the dominant species. That is the theme that in its different layers runs through all my work, focusing more on certain aspects depending on my experiences or the readings I am in.

What’s your favorite artwork?

More than the work I like the most, I think I could talk about the painter I like the most, and that is Caravaggio.  I think he is the artist who has most influenced, perhaps not directly in his aesthetics, in my work. His quest to explain and show human behavior in that fragile balance is something I feel very close to.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you. What is an artistic outlook on life?

Few things like the fragility of life and how things can change from one day to the next in such a dramatic way as the pandemic has made me reflect so much for such an extended period. Feeling that the time of life is limited and that it is not free is something that has haunted me more and more recently. Feeling that we must live and love deeply every day of our existence, making art, in my case, in the best possible way. Art that is not only decorative, pleasurable, and aesthetic yes, but also that communicates messages that enrich the lives of those who see it as well as my own life.

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to and why.

I couldn't think of any artist's name that I would like to be compared to. I believe that each artist is the reflection of a sum of experiences and situations to which he has been exposed in a unique way and whose response will depend on the relationships that created his sensibility and pattern of reading reality; a life composed of a multiplicity of unique and unrepeatable factors that produce a work, if it is honest, unique.

What’s your favorite or most inspirational place?

I find, for different reasons, two inspirational places that touch different parts of my sensibility. One is nature, the forests of the northeast, with their special beauty depending on the season of the year. These forests with their birds and colors, with the universe of life inside them, lead me to a deep reflection on myself. On the other hand, the great museums of New York, whether modern art or encyclopedia museums, both are inspirational because they speak to me of the evolution of human thought. In both cases, the philosophy mediates my experience in terms of the relationships that the experiences generate in my mind and that I then translate into my visual work...

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? Professionally, what’s your goal?

To make art that is meaningful is the best advice I have ever been given. In the same way, my goal is to create art that is both interesting and questions the viewer, and enriches his or her life. Art that asks questions before it finds answers, an art that by looking at it questions the viewer in a different way. Success and what is a professional success as a professional objective is a concept that has changed with the passage of time and my maturity.

In the Studio with Guido Garaycochea