Last week, I made my first ever visit to the Chase Home Museum of Folk Arts located in the heart of Liberty Park in Salt lake City. The museum is housed in a beautifully restored 1850s farmhouse, admission is free, and it contains the works of some of Utah's most talented folk, ethnic, and Native American artists. I was particularly drawn, however, to several tiny sculptures in one display, depicting well-known Day of the Dead characters. The amount of patience, time, and detail put into these figures was astounding. Guillermo Colmenero, who has studied drawing and design at Stanford University, was the creator of the sculptures.
Since his days at Stanford, he has cultivated a love and talent for sculpture, and his vision has led him to create startlingly lovely pieces depicting nature, the beautiful, and the macabre. His pieces have been shown all over in Mexico and in the western United States, and he has been commissioned to work on several large projects in Mexico. In spite of this busy life, he graciously agreed to spend some time interviewing with me from Mexico City.
Mandy: What kind of artist are you?
Guillermo: I am a sculptor. The word artist is so overrated these days; I don't like to use it anymore.
Mandy: When did you first know you were interested in art?
Guillermo: As a child I was always interested in the arts, but the idea became more realistic in my twenties, I guess.
Mandy: Who are your favorite artists?
Guillermo: There are several. Some of my favorites are August Rodin, Gerhard Demetz, Anthony Gormley, Salvatore Rizzuti, and Javier Marín.
Mandy: Where do you find inspiration? Who or what influences you?
Guillermo: Other artists' works, such as books, movies, poems, theatrical plays...but mostly life and death. And Mother Nature.
Mandy: Name 3 artists you'd like to be compared to.
Guillermo: Definitely Rodin or my contemporaries like Demetz, Wall, Poth, or Marín.
Mandy: What is your biggest struggle or obstacle as an artist?
Guillermo: Living off of what I create is the most difficult because you have to be a salesman, too. Also, getting into the close circles of the art world is not easy. You have to be very well connected with the people that make the decisions.
Mandy: Are the people in your life supportive of your art?
Guillermo: At the beginning they were skeptical about my career. But with time, they were seeing my determination and my money earnings, and that shut them up (laughs).
Mandy: Do you like to collaborate?
Guillermo: I wouldn't mind at all to collaborate with any of my favorite artists. That would be great.
Mandy: Have you collaborated with anyone yet?
Guillermo: I´ve collaborated with other sculptors like Peter Cole, Dennise Record, and others when I was working for Concept Casting and Western Architectural for facades on Las Vegas Casinos.
Mandy: What are your goals as an artist?
Guillermo: I would like to be exhibiting my work all over the world.
Mandy: Have you been able to do that in any way so far?
Guillermo: Yes. I've been living off my sculpture for the last seven years, and that’s very pleasing.
Mandy: If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
Guillermo: Probably be a dog trainer. I discovered recently that I really enjoy training dogs.
Mandy: Can you describe the technical process that goes into creating one of your pieces?
Guillermo: When the idea arrives, I start sketching for a series of works with the same theme, then I create small maquetas (models) for each sculpture in clay. Then, I choose the material, deciding from bronze, resins, wood, or stone... and finally I execute the sculptures.
Mandy: Has your process changed over time?
Guillermo: I have become more methodical and patient; I plan really well the structures, and also choose the final finish carefully.
Mandy: Do you find yourself pursuing any recurring themes?
Guillermo: I try to create dramatic sculptures; life and death are my favorite subjects.
Or visit the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts, located in the center of Liberty Park: 900 South or 1300 South at about 600 East, Salt Lake City. Hours: 8 am to 5 pm, Mon-Fri
Guillermo also has an upcoming exhibit at ITESM (Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, México), Santa Fe campus in México City.
Have an artist (of any kind!) you'd like to see interviewed? Leave a comment below.