Spotlight On… Ana Lucrecia Sunum

Multi-award winning, internationally recognized Quetzalteca artist Ana Lucrecia Sunum’s exhibition “Tiempos del Bosque” has been extended throughout April at the Vessica Gallery. XelaWho caught up with the artist to talk about her life and work.

XelaWho: So how did you get in to painting?

Ana Lucrecia Sunum: My father was an art teacher so he always taught us about line and drawing. It was more of a hobby until I entered and won the Certamen Nacional de Pintura Arturo Martínez (a national painting competition). Then I started taking it more seriously.

XW: Did that kind of recognition open doors for you?

ALS: It did. That and being a woman painter – which is kind of rare in Guatemala – got me invited to show my work in alot of places. Here, in Antigua and in the capital. From there, international invitations started coming.

XW: Where else have you exhibited?

ALS: In El Salvador, Mexico, the US, Spain, and of course all over Guatemala.

XW: There’s a natural theme running through this exhibition…

ALS: I’ve always had an ecological message in my work, but now it’s less political. What I want is for people to feel that nature is a living spirit.

XW: Your palette is very striking, too.

ALS: Strong, basic colors have always attracted me. There was a time when I tried to be more pleasing to the eye and work in pastels but it left me feeling unsatisfied.

XW: You seem to use alot more paint than many artists.

ALS: I like the idea of relief, of defining the line in three dimensions. I want my work to be accessible to the blind as well, so that they can touch it and experience it, too.

XW: How is the art scene changing in Guatemala?

ALS: The positive is that there’s more art in non-traditional places. It’s moving out of dusty galleries and museums and into cafés and restaurants and places like that. The negative is that people are more worried about leaving their house now. Before an exhibition opening would attract 300 people. Now sometimes it’s 25.

The other factor is government support. When the government supports the Arts, they flourish and when it doesn’t they wither. It’s been a long time since Guatemala had a government who truly supported the Arts. Here in Xela we used to have an art museum, but it’s gone now and that’s a very damaging thing for an artistic community, that kind of message of neglect.

XW: Being an artist is tough anywhere. I imagine being a woman artist in Guatemala must be triply tough.

ALS: Actually, like I said before, it kind of helped me early in my career, being a bit of a novelty. One of the few things that makes it easier for younger artists is that the art world is always looking for the next new thing, so I guess I was that for a while. One of the great things about being established is that you open doors for younger women artists, and show them that you can make it if you work hard.

XW: How important is it for you to be commercially successful?

ALS: Well you have to live. But you can’t change your style to chase public taste. What’s important for an artist is their trajectory, to be able to look at their life’s work and see the path they have taken. In the face of that, individual sales mean very little. If you’re changing every year trying to sell you’ll never develop your own style and will never be known for anything.

You can see Ms. Sunum’s work at the Vessica Gallery in Xela’s Zona 1 until the end of April.

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