Nicaragua: Open letter to Solentiname painter Silvia Arellano



Pintura por Silvia Arellano, Apartamento Gordillo, Managua (photo: Bernard Gordillo)

Silvia Arellano
Pintora Primitivista
Isla de La Venada (Sector 2)
Archipiélago de Solentiname
Rio San Juan, Nicaragua
Cel. 505 84677419

Dear Silvia,

It has been many weeks since my friends and I showed up unannounced at your home on La Venada Island, filled with excitement at the prospect of seeing your latest work. Please forgive the intrusion as we were told it was okay to come over by your relatives living next door.

I can imagine that, by now, you must be used to all manner of visitor making their presence known, hoping to satiate their curiosity and/or need for a Solentiname work of art (perhaps at some pretty odd hours, too). You are, after all, famous along with the many painters Arellano and known throughout the world. (Thanks in great measure to the poet Ernesto Cardenal.)

When I arrived on that Saturday afternoon, it was with the memory of my having already met you in Managua when you took part in an art opening at the Central Bank. Your painting was among the very best of what I saw at the event. It also happened to be the first time I became acquainted with not only your work, but that of the Solentiname painting tradition, a marvel of primitivist art.

It was one of your paintings—diminutive, humble, naïve—that I took with me after the Central Bank opening, a work purchased from your very hands. I was very grateful that you brought along smaller ones to sell afterward.

And so it was a lovely moment when you remembered me after inviting us to enter your home on La Venada that Saturday. Thank you for introducing us to your daughter. She is indeed very talented, clearly seen in the four or five paintings she showed us, and well on her way to developing her gifts just like her mother (and relatives).

But in the same lines that I write to thank you for receiving us, I must also apologize.

You were so kind in showing us you latest work, and so engaging in explaining your technique, but I was not there to make a purchase. In fact, I didn’t even bring any money with me from Mancarrón Island, where my friends and I were staying.

You were so kind in offering to make a copy of the painting exhibited at the Central Bank, and in any size I might have desired.

Yet even if I had wanted to, I could not have afforded the prices you were asking for—as fair and well-deserved as they are for an artist of your caliber and experience.

Yes, you did intimate that a deal (bargain?) could be struck, a kind gesture if any, but as you may be able to understand now, I could not have afforded it.

That evening after we returned to Mancarrón, my friends came up with the most brilliant idea, the kind that left me with a ton of regret for not having thought of it earlier at the moment it could have been useful. Had I thought of it, or they mentioned it, while at your house, I might be sitting here writing you a simple letter of thanks and no more.

They’re idea? Commision the smallest size of painting possible with the greatest amount of detail that can be exhibited within its boundaries.

Your smallest paintings are affordable, yet you reserve the finest details for larger works.

It’s perfectly understandable.

It may be related to the kind of effort you invest in the largest canvases. It may also have to do with the standards set by your predecessors (or contemporaries), or just part of the Solentiname tradition.

Whatever the reason, it works and there’s probably no need to change.

But maybe you might make an exception for me, if one day I return to La Venada, cash in hand, with a special request.

All the best,

Bernard Gordillo

[N.B. This is not an official Department of State website or blog. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State.]

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