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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Painting another culture

A painting called "Memorias" with people gathered in candlelight
Courtesy of the artist
/
Vicki Nelson
"Memorias" by Vicki Nelson

Understanding another culture can be a fascinating challenge, but also one that can be nearly impossible. Vicki Nelson has been traveling to Guatemala with her husband for nineteen years, but she’s still learning about some of the people who live there: the Mayans, and their culture. What she observes and learns, she puts into her paintings. A retired architect, Nelson says the Mayan people and their environment fascinate her.

A conversation with Vicki Nelson

While visiting Guatemala, Nelson says, “I’m taking photos right and left while I’m there, I’m there as an observer and over the years I’ve had the opportunity to develop friendships with many of the people with whom we work regularly and pick up a little Spanish. So, I’m inspired to take photographs and I’ve used them to inspire this latest body of work. It’s hard enough to understand another person’s culture, so it takes a long time. We have been privileged to be a part of that.”

Nelson says some parts of Mayan culture in Guatemala have become familiar to her over the years, while others remain mysterious.

Nelson-Abuela.jpg
Courtesy of the artist
/
Vicki Nelson
"Abuela" by Vicki Nelson

“Indigenous Mayans, who speak their own native languages rather than Spanish, and who have been widely exploited and discriminated against during the five centuries since the Europeans arrived, have preserved many of their own traditions and values largely in secret,” she says. It is these traditions that Nelson has tried to capture in her paintings.

“I am an emerging artist, so I’m trying to experiment with and try a lot of media right now,” Nelson says. “I like the wood panel at present, just because I like the way the oil responds on it. But I plan to try other surfaces. Some of the sketches and the works on paper in the show are markers or pen or gouache.”

An exhibit of her work will open at 5 p.m. on Friday, November 4, at Ninth Wave Studio in downtown Kalamazoo as a part of Art Hop.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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