Guayaquil December 2012. Since my last visit when I represented the US in the 2007 Bienal de Cuenca there have been many changes:
Now there is a new generation of artists in their 20’s and 30’s that have passed through ITAE, an art school started 7 years ago by artist Xavier Patino. The fresh energy of this contemporary scene is evident in the large-scale paintings in the advanced studio of Saidel Brito, (a co founder), and in the more conceptually material based work of artists at galleries No Minimo and DPM.
I was given a wonderful tour of the Museo Municipal by its director Victor Hugo. I traveled up to the Santa Elena coastal area to visit the hat weaving villages of Libertador, Barcelona, Sinchal, Pile, and Montecristi. Barcelona is where the toquilla fibers are treated in an elaborate softening and drying process, and Pile hosts a new school where students of all ages learn to keep alive older techniques. From 4 different weavers I learned as many different variations of building up a form by intertwining and adding strands. My timing was impeccable as Ecuador has just now officially rededicated the Panama hat, and people were completely open and proud to teach their methods and tell me their stories.
Back in Guayaquil I saw the site for my upcoming commission and imagined what shape a collaboration could potentially take. I took a walk along the Malecon and up the 444 steps to the top of Las Penas. As the sun was going down I overlooked a crowd of people cheering on the break-dancer who was flipping in the air to the sound of the beat.