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Dámarys Sepúlveda, Toro Sobre Roca, 1989 etching

The Nicaragua Sketchbooks
Dámarys Sepúlveda
Ingrid Mayrhofer

September 20 to October 18
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 20, 5-8 PM
Rebecca Gallery: 1011 Bloor Street West, Toronto (just west of Dovercourt Road)

This exhibition narrates the experiences, impressions, and memories of two artists who met as young art teachers in Managua, Nicaragua, in the mid-1980s. Working for the Sandinista Ministry of Culture, they taught at the art college in the capital and led community art workshops in remote parts of the country. The works on display comprise sketches and prints, old and new, that record selected moments in their personal connections with the country and the people at different times.

Sepúlveda, now based in Vancouver, reflects on how her work changed in the process of becoming settled in Canada: “I detached myself from the painful memories, and visualize only the beauty that still exists in my motherland.” Her early etchings carry the weight of her people’s history, whereas her recent mixed-media works represent a search for joyful memories.

Mayrhofer did not return to Nicaragua until 2014, when the artists once again travelled together. Her sketches and prints from the 1980s reflect enthusiasm for the revolution. In contrast, the recent lithographs are compositions created inadvertently by boiled coffee grounds. Ephemeral constructions, the landscape-like images suggest the fleeting memory of a dream.

Ingrid Mayrhofer, Para Lilián, 1985 etching

Dámarys Sepúlveda

Artist Statement:
In my recent drawings and mixed media work, I am exploring the depth of my memories, the ambivalence of belonging to two worlds in which detachment and attachment are constantly competing. Images of my mother’s land, a farm that was her inheritance, link me directly to my roots. By capturing those images, I feel that I can magically make my heritage appear, grasping the colours and now empty rooms of the family home. It is as if the act of imprinting the objects onto paper will counteract my separation from what was once my home — the land and the family. Immigration is a process of detachment and re-attachment. As we struggle to belong to our new country we push our past to the background. In the process of becoming settled, we look back and re-attach ourselves to our memories, idealizing our past.

While my current drawings capture images of more tender memories, the reality of the past I left behind is still vivid in all the prints I created upon my arrival in Canada. In those years (1988-1990), I represented the war that tore my country apart: the pain, sadness, and loss. When placed side by side with my current romanticized views of the country I left, the contrast is overwhelming. I have detached myself from the painful memories and visualize only the beauty that still exists in my motherland.

Dámarys Sepúlveda (born in Masatepe, Nicaragua) is a painter and printmaker based in Vancouver, BC. She studied Visual Arts at ENAP, the Nicaraguan Fine Arts Academy in Managua, graduating with a Visual Art Diploma. Dámarys was artist-in-residence at L’arc Children Art Expression School, in Barcelona, Spain, and at the printmaking studio at York University, Toronto, Ontario. Her paintings and prints have been exhibited in Nicaragua, Barcelona, Toronto, Vancouver, Mexico, and the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton.

Ingrid Mayrhofer

Artist Statement:
As part of my MA field research in the mid-1980s, I went to Nicaragua intending to interview artists about the role of art and culture in the process of social change during the Sandinista revolution. The three months I had allocated for the task stretched into a bit more than two years. During that time, I learned Spanish, taught drawing at the National Art School. I met Dámarys, and learned about community art practice by tagging along with her to remote parts of the country. Along the way, I filled a few sketchbooks. My paintings and prints from that time are full of colour and enthusiasm. For the solidarity movement, the Nicaraguan revolution had been a role model for social change, and the Sandinista government welcomed international artists and activists. However, by the time I presented my thesis exhibition in 1989, US economic pressure and military intervention had destroyed the revolution. In 1990 immediately after taking power, the conservative government covered the hundreds of murals that had been created since 1979 in grey paint, whether or not they contained any political imagery. An example of this was a mural by children in a rural community where Dámarys and I collaborated with the local popular culture centre. The children had created scenes depicting the town market and surrounding farms. During our 2014 visit, my first trip to Nicaragua since the fall of the Sandinista government, I saw that the wall was still grey. Reflecting on the current political situation, I re-purposed some of my old works and printed a grey square over the earlier image.

Ingrid Mayrhofer (BFA, MA, York University Toronto) is a practicing visual artist, community art practitioner, arts educator, and curator. She has exhibited in Canada and abroad, taught studio courses and workshops, developed educational arts activities and community art projects, and initiated a number of international exchanges with artists in Mexico, Cuba, Serbia, and Chile. Current projects include her photo-based installation “After Krieghoff” shown at ART/TECH@STEAM (Saint Thomas, ON, Feb 23/24, 2018) and her upcoming solo exhibition at the Orillia Museum of Art and History (Winter 2019).

The artist gratefully acknowledges the receipt of an Ontario Arts Council Exhibition Assistance grant to support this exhibition.

Gallery Hours:
Tuesday–Saturday 10am–6pm
Closed Sunday and Monday






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