First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 37

They settled in Panama City in the early 1970s and quickly became involved in the cultural activities surrounding the country’s military government. Both men pursued a wide range of endeavors, but they became especially known for their depictions of Panama’s Native American leaders—leaders they tended to frame in contexts inspired by the regime’s populist ideology. As Indigenous figures became part of a pantheon of plebeian heroes celebrated by the nation’s leaders, portraits of their countenances appeared on street corners and buildings and regularly hung from the rafters of Guna meeting houses. Ologwagdi and Olonigdi also created images of non-Indigenous people connected to the state’s nationalist project. In the later effort, Ologwagdi was particularly productive. Through most of the Torrijos period (1972–81), Ologwagdi participated in the Brigada Felicia Santizo. The brigade was a bohe- mian and youthful collective that, with the approval of National Guard officials, painted murals across the country in favor of the Sandinista Revolution, the canal negotiations, and other progressive causes with which the regime sought to identify itself. Ologwagdi became adept at producing engrossing portraits, designed to startle and captivate audi- ences. Interestingly, these impulses toward figurative representations also emerged outside political circles. While Ologwagdi and Olonigdi collaborated with the Kuna Youth Movement, Adán Smith (Guna, b. 1957) spent his free time doodling pictures of patrons at the Canal Zone’s Elks Club. Smith was a barman and aspiring artist who had migrated from western Guna Yala. Years later, he studied at Universidad del Arte Ganexa, Panama’s private art academy, and would emerge as one of the preferred painters of the Panamanian oligarchy. Smith has spent years memo- rializing the children, matriarchs, and patriarchs of Panama’s elite families. The figurative impulse bloomed in the 2010s under the influence of Lucío López Cansuet (Guna, b. 1974), known to the art world as Kansuet. Kansuet is a above, top Julián Velásquez (Guna, b. 1955) at work in the Museum of Contemporary Art, 2015. above, below Interior of Museo Orgun Nega, 2015. Artist Teodoro Torres (Guna, 1953–2017) constructed the gallery with bottles and other discarded materials he collected on Nalunega. opposite Kansuet (Guna, b. 1974), Dreaming Forests, 2013, mixed media on canvas, private collection. Image courtesy of Allegro Galería, Panama City, Panama. SPRING 2019 | 35