A typical scene at TRAMA Textiles is Amparo and Oralia working alongside students, as they meticulously weave their first scarf and a few volunteers discussing the difficulties of injecting the printer cartridge with a syringe. However, there is a regular face that can be seen in TRAMA’s office. He is usually confronting his easel in clothes splattered with paint, but Juan Carlos Cardena Lopez is just as standard of a TRAMA fixture as a hupil from Sacatetepequez, Known around TRAMA as Carlitos, Carlitos is a Guatemalan artist whose budding work is a sight to see.
Carlitos was born in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala and at the age of two was placed up for adoption. He spent his childhood growing up in local orphanages and sparked an early interest in fine arts. “I was seven years old when I started falling in love with art. I remember being amazed by everything around me – paintings, museums, posters, music, graffiti – everything. I was so inspired,” says Carlitos. Unfortunately, the orphanages had limited resources, which left funding towards art supplies out of the question. He began sketching with any materials he could get his hands on. Whether it was drawing on a piece of cardboard or scrap paper, Carlitos knew it was only the beginning to an extended relationship with the art world.
At fifteen years old, Carlitos had the opportunity to study fine arts at La Escuela de Artes in Quetzaltenango. The school introduced an excited Carlitos to the works of international artists and helped him find inspiration in the talents of Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Guatemalan artist, Efraín Recinos. It was also at this school, where Carlitos met with his most forcible instrument – his paintbrush.
Once Carlitos began painting, he could not stop. He decided on a personalized name to sign his art with, ¨Jukar¨- a mix of letters from his full name. His paintings frequently featured the curvaceous lines of the female body and the mysterious nymphs of the sea. “I was in complete awe of the female form. I find my inspiration from their bodies, their faces, their expressions and their lives. They drive me crazy,” he jokes.
Carlitos is especially enamored with mermaids. “I love mermaids because it is the only form I can imagine my mother as. I don’t remember any of the time we had together or even what she looks like. But, I see her in the same reoccurring dream. She is a mermaid and she is holding me in her arms.”
TRAMA´s President Amparo, Carlitos, and Vice-President Oralia
He met Amparo and Oralia when he was teaching Spanish at the school that used to be in the same building as TRAMA Textiles. “They took me under their wings. They both believe in me and support my art. They are definitely motherly figures in my life,” he says.
Carlitos with interviewer, Jillian Szacki
Carlitos dreams about a future working in the arts. He would like to open a fine arts school for the marginalized youth in Guatemala. Carlitos also dreams of traveling abroad to study art and connect with more artists. “Today I can’t leave Guatemala, but tomorrow, yes, maybe tomorrow I can.”
Carlitos´s art can be found here.