I've just returned from a visit to Peru. Eleven days is not much time for a country the size of Peru, but it allowed me a few days in Lima - visiting markets, museums and some artists' studios, and an excursion to Cusco and the Sacred Valley, including Machu Picchu. As usual, I have more photos than I have sense - or at least the time to make sense of them! But I will put some groups of photos online as time permits.
One of my goals in Lima was to visit the home and studio of Peru's finest retablo artist, Claudio Jimenez Quispé. I knew that Claudio was away, but I was invited to come see where he and his family produce their intricate work. They live in San Juan de Lurigancho, a sprawling settlement of about a million people which follows a river valley to the east of Lima. It is a new city, mostly settled by people from Ayacucho and other mountian districts who, like Claudio and Vicenta, fled the bitter civil war of the 1980's. It was an hour's drive to get there, through the relentless traffic of Lima Centro, grim industrial areas and a series of raw neighborhoods to the east of the main city. Their four story building contained not just the home for their extended family, but a studio on the fourth floor. I found half a dozen family members busy molding figures of "pasta" (a mix of plaster with cooked potato) painting them and assembling the figures into boxes. On the third floor was a showroom where completed pieces were displayed, along with several powerful old works - crosses, shrines and historical dioramas.
We have to wait a long time to get new work from Claudio's studio. Vicenta and her son Max showed me the progress on the order which I placed a year ago. About half the pieces were complete, and they promise the rest will be done in time to ship by late June. The work is exquisite. It will be worth the wait.