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Peruvian Sculptor & Silversmith Headlines 2016 Great Gulfcoast Arts Fest

Diego Carbajal

The 2016 Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is this weekend, Nov. 4-6, at Seville Square. The event features over 200 artists, as well as this year’s Invited International Artist Diego Carbajal, a sculptor and Silversmith from Peru.

Beforehand, local residents can hear about his work at a public presentation this Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. at the Pensacola State College Department of Art.

Carbajal is making his first visit to the United States.

He connected with the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival while he was living in Peru’s capitol city of Lima in the district of Miraflores, which has ties to Pensacola through Sister Cities International.

His inspiration to become an artist dates back to the stunning surroundings of the place where he grew up.

“When I was a child, my family was living in the mountains in a city called Huaraz,” Carbajal said. “It’s in the central mountains in the Andes. There’re a lot of landscapes with snow-topped mountains and lakes; it’s beautiful.”

Carbajal says his earliest artistic exploration was a bit of a family affair, influenced by his mother, and with his brother by his side.

“We always were playing with mud into the floor, with stones, and wood sticks, and the river,” said Carbajal, noting that it was stimulating for him to play with the clay and other materials in nature near his home.

Also, his mother had a workshop in the house, and he says she always was painting and creating little things for the house.

Credit Diego Carbajal

Carbajal expresses himself through a number of mediums including drawing and painting. But, he has more of a focus on sculpting using various materials.

“My favorite is the metal,” he said, adding that he also loves wood and stone. And, he spent several years working almost exclusively with recycled plastic, because he believes there’s a problem of plastic trash that finds its way into the streets and then into nature, including the ocean. “And, I was trying to show the people that we can do something little by little, day by day, and started to try to change the situation and work with children, too.”

In referencing his style, Carbajal says his inspiration comes from the millenarian cultures, or culture through the ages, in his native Peru.

“I love all the art expression of the cultures like the pre-Incas. And, there’re some special items I love and I try to interpret this through my way, and I’m always very interested about archaeology.”

His passion is silver precisely because it’s an ancient technique in his culture.

Currently, Carbajal currently working on a series of sculptures inspired by his connection with all the nature surrounding his home in the Peruvian jungle.

“If you see a sculpture, it’s only an animal. But, it’s not only an animal,” Carbajal declared. “It has a soul. It’s has a meaning. It has a function in the world, I think.”

Carbajal says one of his favorite pieces is part of his exhibition at this weekend’s GGAF. He says it’s a copper sculpture of a hand that’s tribute to the farmers in the isolated region of the Andes Mountains. He says it represents efforts to integrate and bring closer all of Peru’s many distinct native communities, from the mountains to the coast, that are now more like separate countries.

Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
WUWF Public Media
Diego Carbajal at the WUWF studios.

Pointing to a knuckle on his hand, Carbajal explains that every knuckle on his hand sculpture has a little face on it, “and in the principal part of the hand you have other faces, and the faces represent the people.”

Carbajal brought a few basic tools with him from Peru and throughout the weekend, he’ll be demonstrating parts of his technique and sharing details about his culture and his work.

“For me being an artist is like blind faith,” said Carbajal. “I have a conviction and I believe in my work and I work very hard and I have a lot of passion in that.”

Diego Carbajal is this year’s Invited Artist at the Great Gulfcoast Arts Fest, which runs Friday through Sunday at Seville Square in Historic Pensacola Village.

You can hear more from the artist this Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 5:30 p.m. at the PSC Department of Art. 

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.