The seduction of machines and artifacts for Carlos Guzmán apparently first set in when he was a child, after his father gave him a watch that he found in the street. “I loved opening it up and looking at the mechanism, the cogs, springs and wheels. I would spend hours and hours playing with that watch, imagining things and dreaming of other worlds.”
Guzmán does not come from a family of artists—although one of his aunts makes “beautiful paper flowers”—but the grandmother of one of his childhood friends and neighbors told him about the Paulita Concepción Elementary School of the Arts. “I’ve enjoyed painting since I was very young, and I used to do it all the time. I found out about that school after the enrollment was closed and the first semester was almost over. I took a folder with my work, and the teachers made an exception for me. They had me take several tests and I passed and was enrolled in the school, which I remember very fondly.”
Subsequently, he attended the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro, graduating in 1989. He describes it as one of the “most wonderful” times of his life. “I was privileged to have excellent professors like Flora Fong, Carlos del Toro, Eugenio D’Melon, Luis Reina and Antonio Alejo, among others. They were marvelous teachers with proven experience in the world of the visual arts, and solid knowledge about art history.” He adds, “We were a very united group, and we would travel all over the island making art and enjoying it. That experience gave me a lot from a human perspective, and I learned that standing out as an individual was not the most important thing; instead, you have to cede to achieve a collective vision.”
In 1997, he spent some time with a group of Meso-American Indians, and that experience helped him to look within and also to put his feet on the ground, to stay connected “to natural things, to relate to people more coherently. It was a sensational experience and, at the same time, hard to explain, because it was a journey in the spiritual sense, not just the physical sense.”
With these experiences, Carlos Guzmán—a painter, draftsman, sculptor and illustrator (March 3, 1970)—faces artistic creation with the certainty that machines have enabled human beings to get into the unknowns of life. “You have to use a microscope to analyze a cell; you have to use an artifact to conquer the air; drills to reach the center of the Earth; watches to measure time. I believe in man’s ingenuity and in what he is capable of doing with his mind and his hands, but he also has to be more sensitive to what is happening with the Earth. I’m referring to taking care of and respecting nature.”
He acknowledges that the wheels of Acosta León, the atmospheres of Fidelio Ponce and the mysticism of Antonia Eiriz are all influences on his work, which does not include nudes, neither female nor male. “I’m seduced by clothing. I have always liked it, and I have been struck by the design, textiles and textures that you can recreate with different impasto techniques. Plus, clothing, suits, frame a person within a given time period.”
He is not concerned about being categorized as post-medieval. “People who devote themselves to studying the visual arts might be right, but I face my work without worrying about definitions; I leave that to the experts. I should confess that I feel more comfortable working with large formats, but the most important thing is not the medium; it’s that the work is well done.”
As a champion of beauty, Guzmán says he feels “very Cuban and above all, very habanero [from Havana], and that is in my paintings, even though some people don’t see it. But that doesn’t bother me, because I paint what I feel like depicting. I come from Spanish roots; my family came to Cuba practically at the same time as the conquest, and the Guzman family settled in the central part of the island. My great-great-grandparents and great-grandparents fought in the independence wars and oral tradition has been decisive in my family. There were anecdotes and stories that were passed down from generation to generation, but nobody wrote those stories down, and I think that I also express that in my paintings. I should say that I like the medieval period— a lot!—and it seduces me. Why? Honestly, I don’t know, and I’m not that interested in finding out.”.