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Juan Bautista Navichoc: A Maya Tz’utujil Artist in Guatemala

By Diana Pastor (Maya K'iche', CS Staff)

Juan Bautista (Maya Tz’utujil) was born amongst villages whose dreamlike landscapes inspired him to become the artist he is today. He is originally from San Juan la Laguna, Sololá, Guatemala, but also has ancestry from San Pedro la Laguna. Bautista spent his childhood in the mountains growing corn and beans, which has become a work of art. His spirituality and belief in God also motivated him to excel, in addition to following his grandfather's teachings. Bautista mentions: "My grandfather was on the face of the Earth for 100 years, 3 months and 12 days. He was one of my teachers of ancestral knowledge, of the Mayan cosmovision." In addition, Bautista says that nature is also very important to him. He grew up playing among nature, with insects and with the richness that comes from the soil.

When he was 11 years old, Bautista moved to Antigua, Guatemala, admiring the colonial charm of the city and meeting watercolor artists who kindly shared with him their processes of painting. For him this process was very valuable because it motivated him to pursue his dreams in art and go far. "Today I have work in several countries: in Canada, the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, France, and England," he shares proudly. 


In his early adult years, Bautista studied at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas Rafael Rodríguez Padilla from 2006 to 2010, specializing in wood and marble sculpture. His talent led him to a scholarship at the South Western Academy of the University of San Marino in California. "My work represents the cosmovision of my ancestral Maya Tzutujil roots, giving them forms of figurative abstracts, and representations of pure and flat colors that allude to our traditional weavings in Guatemala." He also affirms that in his art he tries to reflect his childhood and his ancestral values through his works. For him it is important that the viewers of art can have a reading of his work.

Bautista shares that during his time at South Western Academy, he had the opportunity to visit the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Huntington Library Museum, which were another source of inspiration for his work. Moved by what he saw in these places, Bautista wanted to start presenting his creations but it was difficult for several reasons, so he had to "start breaking certain barriers, even within his own art style." He then began to visit exhibitions to see works of his colleagues and learned much from them.


Bautista says that those of us who have Indigenous roots should not leave our culture, and that we should put our native language into practice and participate in cultural, spiritual, and ancestral events. "I want to uplift our culture through art, events… let's not lose our essence, it is unique. We must give back to Mother Nature, through the knowledge of our ancestors. It is a legacy that we must not lose; rather we must cultivate it through art and other actions today."

"For me, art heals. Many times we young people feel depressed, seeing and studying art motivates us. In my Maya Tzutujil communities and other towns around Lake Atitlan there is a lot of talent. Unfortunately, [finacial] support is what is lacking, but I have realized that those who do not participate do not find opportunities. Encouraging us to participate in contests or festivals helps us to break barriers through art. I will continue to enrich the name of Guatemala and I encourage young and emerging artists who are just starting out to continue their work. Art is life, it is healing. When an artist creates something, the artist immerses himself in a work to see a final result and comes up with new ideas to make more creations on the same work or theme, a series. That ‘next one’ could be the artist's success. We must try until we get what we really want.”


Find Juan Bautista on the following social media platforms:

Facebook: Juan Bautista Navichoc Pop
Instagram: Juan_bautista_navipop88
And also at the El Túnel and Rozas Botrán Art Galleries.