Artist brings Nicaraguan war to Oak Park

I was interviewed by journalist Jonh Huston for the Pioneer Local Press in Oak Park about my show Años de Miedo / Time of Fear. So here is part of this interview.

How’d you get hooked up with the Oak Park gallery Expressions Graphics?

I moved to Chicago from Nicaragua last year. My wife and I were looking for a good place to live, so we found a place in Oak Park and walking around I found Expressions Graphics – a non-profit Printmaking Cooperative and Fine Arts Gallery – so I became a member. Since then I have been involved in some projects and outreach programs in the Oak Park community with them.

How long have you been painting? Exhibiting your art?

Well, I grew up in an artistic environment, my mother is descended from an important family of artists in Nicaragua (poets, painters and musicians) and my father dedicated his free time to writing poetry, painting watercolors and playing guitar. In fact my two older brothers, Robert Barberena and Cesar Barberena, are artists as well; they studied fine arts in Nicaragua. I think that helped me get involved in arts. But it was in 1990 that I was really interested in artistic knowledge because it allowed me to revisit my memories, so I began to take art seriously and started showing it. I am a self-taught visual artist, I never attended fine arts school, because when I was a child I did not like the way the “art academy” teaches, sometimes was too archaic, so I left.

Preso Politico

This exhibit, you say on your web site, is based on your memories of war in Nicaragua in the ’70s and ’80s. Did that experience inspire you to get into art in the first place?

Yes, of course. I mean, I was already attracted to art because of my family, and living the terrible experience of war and exile hit me, so I got seriously into art one year after the war finished. During this period of time I worked in a variety of different styles, but in 1999 I started to work on a big show “Años de Miedo/Time of Fear,” (that was) a manner of reflection about war and its effects and how these memories and fears affect our lives not only physically but also in psychological terms, and for that show I produced more than 70 pieces in different techniques, but I only exhibited 50 pieces. I presented this show in Casa de los Tres Mundos Cultural Center and Praxis Gallery in Nicaragua in 2000, and at the National Gallery in San Jose, Costa Rica. So now I made a Print Portfolio inspired by sketches and drawings that I did not show before. Also, recent world events have given me new material to draw on.

I hope it’s not cliched to say that I look at your work and think about Picasso’s “Guernica,” though you definitely have your own style.

Well, Picasso’s “Guernica” is one of my favorite paintings, and I considered that I have some influences by Picasso and I have taken advantage of… But I think this series has its own essence. In fact, sometimes I like to play with words and I have a nickname for this series “Guerranica,” which is similar to “Guernica” and means Nicaraguan war.

Your Twitter page says “Nicaragua/Chicago,” do you live in Chicago now?

Currently I am living in Oak Park. I plan on living in Chicago for the next few years, if not longer. But we will eventually move back to Nicaragua, either permanently or continue to move back and forth.


And, last but not least, the open-ended and up-to-your-interpretation question: How important is art?

For me, art has been important because it has given me the freedom to travel over the ocean of my memories, permitting me to express my sentiments and through this, dig deeply into the vastness of human knowledge; knowledge which has helped me to better understand the world that surrounds us. With my work, I seek to be a vector of change, collecting images that pertain to our collective memory and that, in certain form, make reference to painful events in the history of my country and of the world.

For more information about Carlos’ art and upcoming exhibit, visit his web site.


About carlosbarberena

Carlos Barberena is a Nicaraguan self-taught Printmaker based in Chicago where he runs his printmaking project La Calaca Press. Barberena has exhibited individually in Costa Rica, Estonia, France, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain and The USA. His work has been shown in important Art Fairs, Art Biennials, Museums, Galleries, Universities and Cultural Centers around the world, among them: the 7 International Printmaking Biennial of Douro at the Lamego Museum in Portugal; Printmaking In / In Graafika Fest at Linnagallerii, Parnu, Estonia; the IX Nicaraguan Visual Arts Biennial (IX BAVNIC) - Ortiz-Gurdián Foundation. “Recycling Memory: Recapturing the Lost City” curated by Omar López-Chahoud. PAC Museum, Managua, Nicaragua; Tartu Printmaking Fest 2014, Tartu Art House, Tartu, Estonia; LAPS 21, National Printmaking Biennial, CSUN Art Galleries, Northridge, CA; Pulso: Arte de las Américas, KCAD Fed Galleries, Grand Rapids, MI; “Santitos” curated by René Arceo, Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA), Chicago; Hanal Pixan - Food for the Souls, curated by Dolores Mercado, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago; III Bronx Latin American Art Biennial, Bronx, New York; “Les Saltimbanques” an homage to Gustave Doré at the Musée d’Art Roger-Quilliot - MARQ - in France, where his work was exhibited alongside Doré’s Masterpiece; III World Body Art Conference in Venezuela, Lia Bermudez Museum; V Biennial of Caribbean Dominican Republic, Museum of the Dominican Man; 8th Triennial - Mondial de L’Estampe et de la Gravure Originale in Chamalieres, France; 6th KIWA at the Kyoto Museum of Art in Japan; Takanabe Art Museum, Miyazaki, Japan; Latin American & Nicaraguan Printmaking, former Convent of San Francisco Museum, Granada, Nicaragua; 24 Grafiekbiennale Sint-Niklaas, International Exlibriscentrum, Stedelijke Musea, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium and the XIII Art Salon, Identity Imprint: A Glance at Ibero-American Printmaking at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, DC. He has received various awards, most notably the “National Printmaking Award 2012” given by the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture in Managua, Nicaragua and the award- poster for the Ecology and Human Rights in Banana Plantations in Costa Rica, given by GEBANA in Berlin, Germany. Barberena’s work is included in numerous public and private collections, including Ortíz-Gurdián Museum, León, Nicaragua; Douro Printmaking Biennial Collection, Museu do Gravura, Alijo, Portugal; Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA), Chicago, USA; Artist Printmaker Research Collection, Museum of Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA; Special Collection, University of Colorado at Boulder, CO, USA; The National Gallery, San José, Costa Rica; Museum of Contemporary Art “Julio Cortazar”, Managua, Nicaragua; Permanent Art Collection of the Bibliotheca of Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt; Benedictine University, Lisle, Illinois; KIWA, Kyoto, Japan; the School of Fine Arts, (UNAM), Mexico; the Triennial Prints Cabinet, AMAC, France, the International Exlibriscentrum, Stedelijke Museum in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium; the Lia Bermudez Museum, Venezuela; Former Jesuit College Cultural Center, Patzcuaro, Mexico and Praxis Gallery of Nicaragua.
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