Visual Encounters with Paraguay: Discovering a culture

ReAnne Utemark

A warm breeze from the south blew through the Mulvane Art Museum with the opening reception of “Visual Encounters with Paraguay: Celebrating 40 Years of Kansas-Paraguay Partnership.” The reception lasted from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, at the Mulvane Art Museum.

Mulvane interim director Reinhild Janzen gave a brief tour at the beginning of the reception to explain some of the pieces, which were religious, political and historical. They were gathered from both private and public collections. Gustavo Beckelmann, one of the artists whose work is featured in the exhibit, visited Washburn’s campus and attended the opening of the collection. Beckelmann, who has more than one piece on display at the Mulvane, explained his use of bronze, glass, stone, wood and paper in his sculptures. For example, in the piece “Procession” Beckelmann said he wanted to show various burdens on the human figures.

During a brief tour at the beginning of the reception Janzen explained some of the background to the art. In some of the religious pieces she illustrated the symbolism, the Catholic presence and, more specifically, the Jesuit presence in Paraguay. The exhibit also includes Native drawings from Paraguay that portrayed the narratives and myths of the indigenous people.

“It’s incredible, what they can do with very basic materials,” said Roxann Kolbek, an art major and work study student in the Mulvane. “They were growing their own materials and making things by hand without the benefits of modern technology.”

More of the artwork contained political messages, including a painting about the French revolution by Alfredo Moraes, entitled “Libertad, igualdad, y fraternidad – ou La Mort,” which translates into “Liberty, equality and fraternity – or Death.”

“I wanted to show diversity and also a little bit of an overview of the history of Paraguayan art,” said Janzen during the tour.

This exhibit celebrates the 40-year partnership between Kansas and Paraguay. President John F. Kennedy started the program and wanted to partner every state in the United States with a Latin American country. The two groups would exchange cultural perspectives in art, business and many other areas. In keeping with this, three Paraguayan exchange students from the University of Kansas performed music at the event.

The Paraguay exhibit will run until April 13.