Mercado de Noche, Nahualá
(Night Market in the town of Nahualá)
18" x 25", oil on canvas

Victor Vasquez Temó

Because the artist’s brought the paintings to Vicente Cumes Pop’s house who bought them for me, I do not know the exact order in which they were painted, I received them in groups. I surmise that this painting, the same subject as Victor’s first painting, probably is Victor’s first successful painting. His first painting was interesting, and then he did a series of unsuccessful paintings, possibly because he wanted to paint like other artists. Only when he began to fill the canvas with people did his paintings come alive.

When one looks closely at this painting, everything seems rather badly painted especially compared to other Tz’utuhil artists; but when one looks at the painting as a whole, it is full of a vibrant energy that none of the other artists capture in their paintings. The first thing one notices are the large feet, which are very un-Mayan. Unfortunately Victor has never again done such interesting feet. Victor differs from the other Tz’utuhil artists because he makes you feel that the people in the painting are intensely involved in their relationships with each other. The seated man in the blue shirt in the foreground inquisitively gazes at the boy in the blue shirt; the boy for his part looks challengingly looks back. If feels like something is going on between them—maybe it is nothing, they are just bored waiting for someone to buy something—but perhaps the fruit in the boy’s hands have something to do with it. I get the feeling that the boy is not supposed to have the fruit and knowing that he, the man, and the woman behind him are all from Santiago Atitlán, I can think of several different stories why. Four other transactions take place in Mercado de Noche, Nahualá, and in each we can feel the people relating to, negotiating with each other.

The two chickens in the painting have more personality than most of the people. One on the woman’s back sticks it’s head out of the her rebozo, the expression on his face makes him particularly sympathic. A woman holds the wings and legs of the other rooster for the man who sees to be buying it. This makes sense because we can tell from his traje that the man comes from Todos Santos, a town about a day’s travel from Nahualá.

Three women wear the white huipiles embroidered in burgandy of Nahaulá. A man from Nahualá, in the center of the painting, wears a brown shirt and a wool wrap-around skirt. The man with the hat probably comes from Nahualá too, but we can’t see enough of him to be sure. Besides the man from Todos Santos, there are buyers and sellers from Santiago Atitlán, and San Antonio Palopó.

Two figures especially, the man from Todos Santos and the boy, seem poised for action. The boy, who I believe Victor intended to paint in a seated position, instead does not look seated. The boy looks as if he were walking away, but his legs are impossibly positioned, so it seems as if he must be about to fall. We can’t tell if the man from Todos Santos is seated or stooping, but his left leg with the foot resting only on the his toes seems ready to spring him up to a standing position.


San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum, March—May 1995

Depot Bookstore & Cafe, Mill Valley, CA. May 1996

Arte Americas, Fresno, CA, May 4 to July 13, 1997

Museo Chicano, Phoenix, AZ; February & June 25—Aug 7, 1998

Hastings College of the Law Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Oct 7,1998 to Jan. 1999

SOMART Gallery, San Francisco, CA, Jan. 4—22, 2000