September 13, 2019

The Spirit of Exploration

By: Garen Robie

The summer after my freshman year at Wabash College, I had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador. Though I was an art major, the trip was primarily geared to Spanish and Biology students. We had the opportunity to live with a host family, and study Spanish at the Universidad Pontifica in Quito.

After that, we had permission from the government to traverse a number of ecological preserves. We visited the Cloud Forests, hot springs at Papallacta in the Andes, Los Islas de la Plata near the Galapagos, and the Cuyabeno Research Lodge in the Amazon Rainforest. As a painter the scenery and wildlife left a lasting impression to be sure, but what really influenced me was my discovery of the painter and sculptor, Oswaldo Guayasamin.

Every craft village and street vendor meticulously recreates his paintings; he was a national hero.  He was of Quechua and Spanish descent, so as a mestizo, he had a very unique point of view, and spent his career fighting against racism and for the impoverished and working class. During his life he befriended Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and many others across the world. I was completely flummoxed as to why, with all my art history studies, I had never heard of him.

It just goes to show that you never know what you might find if you set out to explore our world with an open heart and mind. In many cases you don’t even have to travel to exotic locations. Just stop by your local library, think of people, places and things that interest you and you’ll be amazed at what you can discover about the world we live in. With that inspiration and knowledge you can then come to IGNITE Studio and create something amazing with what you’ve learned. Maybe you can make work like Guayasamin with one of our paint, clay, or found object kits. Happy Making!