Tag Archives: Jamestown

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.


Gandolf the White Blizzard

It is the evening of January 11, 2013, and I am on the second floor of The Arts Center in downtown Jamestown, North Dakota. In the past couple days the Weather Channel and regional meteorologists have been psychologically preparing the public for the first intense blizzard of the year. The Weather Channel has subsequently named this blizzard Gandolf — yes, I’m serious. Originally I intended on making the Eisenhower Interstate 94 drive from Fargo to Jamestown after an NDSU departmental meeting concluded in the late afternoon, but eureka rattled through my brain earlier in the morning and I thought it would be better to make the drive then and there. My hope was to beat the thermometer from Fargo to Jamestown, knowing that the light rain would turn to ice as the temps dropped below 32 F. And if I didn’t make it to Jamestown, how would I be able to attend the art gallery reception for Walter Piehl on Saturday evening with Molly at The Arts Center? Yes, I needed to act.

Ice forming on the windshield and radio antenna during the early stages of Gandolf the White Blizzard.

Ice forming on the windshield and radio antenna during the early stages of Gandolf the White Blizzard.

The drive turned into a white-knuckled affair, a ’93 Chevrolet S-10 rear-wheel drive pickup providing joyous stress. I found that by keeping the speedometer at no more than 40mph, the rear wheels would stay secure to the pavement. During the drive, I also thought about how author Chuck Klosterman killed off several main characters (spoiler alert!) with a blizzard in Downtown Owl, this piece of fiction set in a small town in rural North Dakota in 1984. Then I thought about the book, Children’s Blizzard. Then I tried to stop thinking such thoughts, and I continued driving.

Note: when driving in winter rainstorms that are turning to ice, there are two opposing thoughts that bash at each other in the brain. It goes something like this: after a driver is 30 miles into a 90 mile drive, and just after the rear wheels slip a little at 50mph (the pick up will jerk a bit), the driver considers two options: turn around and endure another 30 mile drive back, or press on and gain another 30 miles. In the long term, if the driver retreats and makes it back home, they will have logged 60 miles, which, essentially means one could have been 2/3s the way to the destination. So I pushed on. Would I end up sliding off the road and into the ditch? Stop thinking about these thoughts. I did, and I made it to my destination. My advice: don’t do this. Ever. Anyhow, the photo pictured above is what the windshield looked like in the early stages of Gandolf the Grey, this between 8:30AM-to-12PM in Cass, Barnes and Stutsman counties, North Dakota.

Walter Piehl and his art.

Walter Piehl and his art.

The below short video clip is an intensified Gandolf, when a winter rain storm receives more training to ultimately become Gandolf the White Blizzard. As I re-visit the video over and over from a historic building in downtown Jamestown, North Dakota, I can’t help but thinking how 100 years ago an individual in the building would have heard similar sounds from this very vantage. Note, for example, the subtle chug-chug-chug in the audio, this coming from a train just a block north. The large grain elevator (not visible) is located along the tracks. Yup, 100 years ago it was possible during a winter blizzard to hear the same blasts of shivering whispers blow through the small cracks in commercial brick construction, and also hear the thump-thump-thump of the iron horse on the Northern Pacific Railroad.  Historically, it is important to respect White Blizzards — lest they teach us mortality instead of just humility.

The Archaeology of Kindness

No. 18/#26Acts I found this afternoon on my windshield in Jamestown, North Dakota.

No. 18/#26Acts I found this afternoon on my windshield in Jamestown, North Dakota.

About 20 minutes ago I finished up some grocery shopping (getting the crucial jultid ingredients for Swedish meatballs and gravlax) at the Coborn’s in Jamestown, North Dakota. After loading the pickup box with the staples for the weekend, I got into the cab, looked up and noticed that someone had put something between my windshield wiper and windshield. I got back out, grabbed it and inspected it. Someone, inspired by NBC News and the Twitter hashtag, #26Acts, gave me an act of charity and kindness to honor and remember Anne Marie Murphy, age 52, Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown, Connecticut. On the front of the small envelope is a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. It reads:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

This is true. There was a candy cane strapped to the envelope, and within was a Farmers Union Oil gas card for $5.00. Wow. That’s what I thought. A little backdrop on Anne Marie Murphy: she died while using herself as a human shield to cover 6-year-old Dylan Hockley (Dylan was also killed). Anne is a saint, and her final act on this planet is being recognized as such (as are many from Sandy Hook Elementary). And an anonymous person in Jamestown, North Dakota wanted to randomly share this 18 of 26 Acts with someone.

The note also says, “Pay it Forward,” so that charges me with sharing this information on the blogs to keep it in the pipeline. I’m inspired. I suppose if we’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the holiday season, it’s okay to pause for a moment, look at the person next to you, and imagine what life would be like without them. Go ahead and hug them. It’s okay to do that. Happy Christmas and merry holidays to all from the northern Great Plains.