Tz'utujil Mayan Artists of San Pedro la Laguna
Tz’utujil Maya painting began when Rafael González y González made a small painting in 1929. This was a beginning of Mayan artists painting about their own lives and culture. It blossomed into a school of painting in the late 1960s. It’s most important artist arguably is Rafael González’s grandson Pedro Rafael González Chavajay whose paintings accurately depict the disappearing Maya traditions.
Tz'utujil Mayan Artists of San Juan la Laguna
The first Tz’utujil Maya artists in San Juan la Laguna all learned from established artists in San Pedro la Laguna. All five brothers of the Coché Mendoza family became painters, leaning from the oldest Antonio. Julian the second brother was the first Tz’utujil artist to attend art school in Guatemala City. He eventually created a style of Guatemalan Mayan cubism which was widely copied by other artists.
Tz'utujil Mayan Artists of Santiago Atitlán
Juan Sisay was the first Tz’utujil artist in Santiago Atitlán starting in the 1950s. His beginning paintings were naïve, but he soon became so popular with the expatriate community in Guatemala that he hired to talented young men to help him paint. Their styles were much more sophisticated. When Sisay travelled to the US for an exhibition he learned to do realistic portraits of people and he began painting the people of his town. This lead to artists from Santiago painting larger-than-life-size portraits of Atitecos. The two best artists in this genre were Sisay’s two sons. [I did not collect these portraits because they did not show the Maya culture and traditions the way the other Tz'utujil paintings did.]
Kaq'chikel Mayan Artists of San Juan Comalapa
Andres Curruchich was the first Maya painter in San Juan Comalapa beginning almost the same time as Rafael González in San Pedro. At that time travel in Guatemala was slow and difficult, often by foot, so there was little cross pollination between the Tz’utujil Maya artists in the three towns around Lake Atitlán and the distant Kaq’chikel community of Comalapa. The style of painting is distinctly different. The most important Maya woman artist, Paula Nicho Cúmez, creates paintings full of symbolism. She always paintings from the point of view of a woman in a Mayan world.
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