A breakneck tour of Salvadoran art in just six images

Just in case that a visit El Salvador’s Museum of Art is not on your schedule, The Florida Dispatch went through the trouble –pleasurable– to visit the country and took pics of six of the museum’s pieces. Now you can view them in whatever digital gadget you are using to read this post.

This hasty tour starts with Noé Canjura, born in 1922 to a family of landless Salvadoran peasants. His background notwithstanding, he managed to paint his way to France’s École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and from there to international prominence. Our attention was caught not by one of his major works but by this sketch. It not only gives us a back-stage peep into his artistic process, but it allows us to imagine him at a Paris café. There he is, sitting at a sidewalk table, planning a canvas… The kid who worked in a sawmill in El Salvador to help his parents is now annotating in French in his sketchbook (“The flowers in the 3rd plane must be diffuse…”), oblivious of the snooty waiters around him. What a pity Canjura died when he was just 48 years old!

Boceto, 1949
Noé Canjura, sketch, 1949

Then comes this canvas by Julia Díaz (1917-1999). Its social undertones burst with strength, just as the character’s muscles. Díaz lived for a while in Toledo, Spain. As any pretentious critic would ask, do we detect a hint of El Greco in the cuspidal arrangement of this piece?

Julia Díaz, Workers, 1940.

Next, we include a 1957 canvas by Valero Lecha. It is untitled but you don’t need a name to guess that the subject is a prostitute in San Salvador. At this point, The Florida Dispatch apologizes for the poor quality of the photos, and takes the opportunity to remind its readers that the pictures in this blog are just point-and-shoot with an iPad mini by an amateur photographer who also multitasks as the writer of these texts.

Valero Lecha, untitled, 1957.

We include this canvas by Carlos Cañas because we like it, and thought that its violent ying-yangish contrast might appeal to our readers too. Stretching this comment to cater to those readers who like Buddhism, we add that in this piece we see that we are all one, and when we hurt another being we are also hurting ourselves.

Carlos Cañas, Dogs, 1956.
Carlos Cañas, Dogs, 1956.

The Florida Dispatch is aware that the time of our readers is valuable (and their attention scant), so we hurry up and travel a few years forward, leaving behind canvases depicting the native landscape or social struggles. We now go into themes that occupy modern times. Of course, art requires no explanation, but some might say the subject of this picture represents women as constrained by a male-dominated society. Should anyone care about The Florida Dispatch’s opinion, here it is: it represents a woman not at ease in her body (such as the author of these lines when she tries to get into the pants she bought two years ago).

Teyo Orellana, Atada (Tied), 1968.

The final piece is decades and way far from the Academic european influences –you know, gilded vases with ornate flower arrangements, ladies holding fans and posing in long gowns, and so on– that shaped Salvadoran artists at the end of the 19th century. This recent work by Danny Zavaleta is a large digital impression of a map of San Salvador, its different boroughs artistically annotated for us. On the upper right-hand corner, where it says Disneyland, is the affluent neighborhood up on the hill where the Museum is located, it’s mansions and businesses –brands such as Starbucks, KFC, and Wendy’s– protected by guards and razor wire. On the upper right-hand corner lies the territory where the very dangerous Mara Salvatrucha 13 gang rules. The red bus in the middle marks the spot where an actual bus was set on fire with people inside. No need to explain where the red-light district is.

Danny Zavaleta, El Tur, 2006.

If you got this far, THANK YOU from the very bottom of our keyboard!

This is it, a hurried and unmethodical taste of a Salvadoran museum.

Now you can go on about your business and The Florida Dispatch can start working on its next post…


  1. Anonymous

    Gracias Lau. Siento que estamos volviendo a los tiempos en que me prestabas libros, ibamos a museos, veíamos peliculas y compartíamos nuestras jovenes impresiones de todo lo que sucedíaca nuestro alrededor. Ahora me has deleitado de nuevo con esta muestra de arte salvadoreño y tus delicosos comentarios. Celebro mucho la posibilidad que tienes de regalarnos el Florida Dispatch! Mil gracias!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura

    Querida Gaby, mil gracias a ti. Es el comentario más bello que me han dejado en el blog. Ahora que me lees, redoblaré mi entusiasmo para escribir, pues ciertamente en este foro podemos volver a compartir como lo hacíamos… Un gran abrazo, Lau


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