Victor Huáman Gutiérrez
Medium of Work:
Though he comes from a small, relatively remote village in Peru’s mountainous Central Highlands region, Victor Huáman Gutiérrez produces artwork that’s anything but provincial. In fact, his exquisitely carved retablos have been exhibited in fine art galleries to rave reviews, and have found homes with collectors around the world.
Traditionally, the word retablo refers to a devotional figure, often carved of wood, and typically representing a Christian saint or a member of the Holy Family. Victor bucks our expectations with his decidedly secular—and delightfully entertaining—tableaux of everyday people engaged in a number of activities, both routine and unusual. Though often playful, Huáman Gutiérrez also tackles Peru’s political and socio-economic landscape as well. No matter what the theme, his work is elaborately conceived and painstakingly executed. Diorama-like glimpses of parties, marriages, or simply day-to-day activities are vividly realized in three dimensions, and often on multiple, stacked levels; it’s not unusual for them to be over two feet tall.
Victor, one of fifteen children, was self-taught, and resides in Quinua, where he was born and raised. Rather than carve figures from wood or mold them from clay, he uses a mixture of gypsum, flour and water to craft human forms that are remarkable for their realistic features and lively facial expressions. He finishes each figure with watercolor, using handmade brushes fashioned from sticks and animal hair. Victor is at once a visual artist, a master storyteller, and acute observer of his surroundings, for within each of these meticulously realized retablos is a veritable document of Peruvian life.