Human Puzzles: Peruvian-pan-North Dakota Art

Sculptures by Guillermo Guardia.

Human puzzle sculpture by Guillermo Guardia. Note the sculpture in the backdrop as well.

I just snapped a bunch of photos of Guillermo Guardia’s (the Peruvian-North Dakotan artist, not the Costa Rican football striker) exhibit on display at The Arts Center in downtown Jamestown, North Dakota (the exhibit is sponsored by the North Dakota Art Gallery Association with support from the North Dakota Council on the Arts). Guardia hails from Perú, and did his MFA at the University of North Dakota. In 2009, he started working for the North Dakota Museum of Art as an Artist-in-residence. Guardia’s exhibit will be on display in Jamestown until July 6, 2013.

The pieces, specifically the puzzle-human pieces, got my mental gears cranking. Below is the narrative Guardia put together to accompany these pieces. As you enter the gallery, the narrative is just to your left.



Guillermo Guardia, “3 Truths / 3 Verdades: Puzzle Pieces”

When I began my Masters of Fine Art degree at the University of North Dakota, I knew I wanted to continue depicting the human figure and using it as my main subject and form of art. After building numerous figures in clay, I concluded I was failing at creating the figure I had envisioned. This was very frustrating. I was not pleased with any of my new works. It left me unsure of what direction to take my artwork. My frustration was compounded by the fact that it was my first time in the United States, and my first time out of Perú. At that time, everything was new for me. I had problems communicating with my peers, as it is different to learn English in a Spanish speaking country than practicing it in the United States. Some days I went home with painful headaches.

Two more human puzzles by Guillermo Guardia.

Two more human puzzles by Guillermo Guardia.

In 2003, I turned my attention to building clay figures that looked as if they were thinking (The Thinker by Rodin was a big influence). I quickly finished my first new figure. The new work looked good, but again, it didn’t match the image I had in mind. I sat in front of it, contemplated for a while, took a carving tool, and began to draw some lines over the surface. Eventually those lines crossed each other and became patterns. It made the figure look as if it was built of individual pieces, becoming the inspiration for my current puzzle piece series. The first figure in this series was filled with these puzzle pieces. This puzzle figure was holding a single piece in his hand as if pondering where it fit or where it came from. Perhaps the image of the puzzle piece came from a childhood memory as I remembered my sister always playing with puzzles, something that was beyond my abilities and patience.

Most of us have felt the sensation of something missing and not knowing what it is. We have felt that uncomfortable feeling of emptiness and are unable to describe it. I don’t believe life is a walk in the park anymore. It is difficult and complex. The puzzle pieces represent those little parts of everyone’s life and shape us as human beings. I never thought of myself as a real artist until 3 years ago. So many things have happened since I arrived in North Dakota making me what I am today.


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