Hulda Guzmán

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“Everybody Loves The Sunshine” (2022)

Guzmán believes there’s a special energetic spot on the periphery of her family’s home, which sits on a mountain by the sea. “Always, during the full moon, there’s a gathering of animals here – horses, goats, chickens, dogs, cats,” she says. 

She recalls photographing the landscape after sunrise one morning, the light shining at a hard angle against the horizon so that she could see her shadow projected onto the trees – a memorable moment she replicated in “Everybody Loves The Sunshine.” 

For Guzmán, the shadow, as a psychological concept, holds particular weight. “I’m interested in the spiritual quest, in that battle that we all have with our inner demons,” she says. “We’ve been brought up in this culture where it’s supposed to be about the bright side, neglecting all that is dark, and calling it ugly. Who said that it’s ugly? Why shouldn’t [the darkness] be appreciated, understood, studied and nurtured?”

Guzmán’s current exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery is the first show of works created in her new studio – a bungalow built and designed for her by her architect father. “It’s in the middle of nowhere,” she says. “It’s all nature. I can hear the ocean. I can hear the birds. I can hear the whooshing.”

In “Delightning,” she immortalizes its woven roof and airy design, as well as the greenery that lies outside its gigantic windows, which help to quiet her mind. “I’ve never been able to paint if I’m not feeling completely at peace,” says Guzmán. “It’s very important because all those high vibrations are transposed onto the painting. I don’t want to ever paint anything negative and spread those feelings, ever.”

The painting has a darker quality to it than her daytime scenes: a frightened figure stands with her arms by her head, looking out at the lightning, while the child next to her gazes serenely towards that same horizon. “It’s meant to speak about how we tend to react to things – our automatic reactions versus how we could react,” says Guzmán. “Look at this little girl, just contemplating the beauty of [lightning]. It doesn’t have to be a scary thing. So [the painting] questions the nature of fear.”

“Green Season” began as a contemplation of the beautiful landscape outside of Guzmán’s new studio. “But then I felt the need, for some reason, to add some drama to it,” she says. That drama came in the form of a pair of hands clutching the edge of the balcony, and a second pair seemingly protruding from it. 

“I like to leave [the meaning] up to interpretation. Either the person is falling down or climbing up,” she says. “Those other hands are magic – an element of wonder. For me, [the painting is] a way to express the unfathomable part of life, all of those energies that come into action but aren’t perceivable to our human senses, but are there nonetheless. That’s what I like to capture about nature: its power to anchor us in the present.”

“This narrative, to me, illustrates in a very literal way the dance of nature. That landscape was a lot about the way that nature makes me feel and connects me with myself; and how, when you’re in that state of presence, you see the interconnectedness of all living creatures,” Guzmán explains. 

“I tend to be over-observant of details, drowning in the complexity of it all – like [painting] the infinite amount of leaves – whereas for ‘Dancing Cocks,’ I’m trying to step away from that meticulous leaf-by-leaf depiction. I’m trying to have some simplification, some kind of abstraction.”

“This year, I’ve been listening to stand-up comedy and comedy podcasts. I’ve been trying to develop my idea of comedy. I want to be a funnier person, obviously – don’t we all?” Guzmán says. “To me, [‘Morning Skits’ is] a scene where everyone wakes up together in the morning – it’s very communal – and there’s this game where everybody has to go outside and tell jokes. It sounds like something that should be done in a societal way. ‘Gather round people, it’s joke time.’” 

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