‘What gives me life’Ivan Guaderrama shares about his passion for art, faith

Artist Ivan Guaderrama, a Palisade High School graduate, creates paintings and sculptures that interact with those viewing or touching the work. The Ivan Guaderrama Art Gallery is in the art district of San José del Cabo, Mexico, and he recently set up a company in Grand Junction to create souveniers similar to his artwork that can be sold in airport gift shops. His main purpose is “to share a message of love and faith in my art and all the souveniers.” Three of Guaderrama’s paintings are being shown in the “Home Expressions” exhibition at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts.

“Unexpected Melody” by Ivan Guaderrama

Closeup of “Unexpected Melody” Ivan Guaderrama

“Serenity” by Ivan Guaderrama

Ivan Guaderrama wanted to make people part of art, to go beyond just seeing art.

And so he got The Clapper — you know the commercial jingle, “Clap on, clap off! The Clapper!” — and added it to his artwork.

Walk up to a painting, or whatever artwork Guaderrama thought up, and clap your hands and music played or lights came on. It was good, but not enough for the artist.

“I wanted to do more, but I couldn’t because it didn’t exist,” Guaderrama said.

So he went back to school online and studied technology and programming for a year and a half. “For me as an artist it was very hard,” he said in a phone interview from Mexico, where he has a gallery in the art district of San José del Cabo.

Guaderrama found his left brain wasn’t as cooperative as his right brain and it didn’t help that his classmates often were engineers.

“I remember studying twice as hard and getting 6s and 7s instead of 9s or 10s,” he said.

But when he was done, he was ready to sculpt, to paint, to weld and then write software to give life to his art.

Three pieces of Guaderrama’s work, two of which are interactive, are part of the “Home Impressions” exhibition at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts (The Art Center) and being held in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month.

“Unexpected Melody” is a mixed media painting of a piano, and you’re supposed to gently play the keys to create your own melody.

“The paint you are touching when you touch the keys, that is made of graphite. I learned how to make conductive paint that I could use instead of metal,” Guaderrama said. And, yes, he has the patent on that paint.

Across the gallery room is “Love is the Music” with dynamic colors behind the words “Life is a song, Love is the music” and two hearts.

One person touches the middle of one heart, another person touches the middle of the other heart and then you touch each other on the arm or the face or indulge in a kiss. Sensors programmed to respond to the body’s energy are activated with each skin-to-skin touch and notes ripple from the painting.

Guaderrama’s third piece in the exhibit, “Serenity,” is a mixed media painting of an angel figure. It’s not interactive, instead hinting at more of Guaderrama’s story not just as an artist, but as a person who happens to be an artist.

Guaderrama moved to the Grand Valley from Mexico with his mother as a child. He lived here for about 10 years, graduated from Palisade High School in 2002 and studied art on the Front Range.

His mother, Adelaida Martin, and his sister still live in the Grand Valley and his brother lives nearby.

As a young man he returned to Chihuahua, Mexico, where he was born, and five years ago moved to San José del Cabo. It’s picturesque with a great quality of life, he said.

“It’s the perfect place where everyone wants to retire,” Guaderrama said.

He opened the Ivan Guaderrama Art Gallery in the art district. “The whole gallery is interactive,” he said. “So we have a lot of people who come in to play.”

On the outside, you touch certain parts and things light up. And inside people are touching the paintings and laughing in surprise, he said.

But three years ago, “I was going through a hard time in my life.” Financially, art was selling and that was good. However, his personal life wasn’t good. He was weary of being a superhero artist with a nine-member team working at his gallery.

“I was just tired. I was young, but I was tired,” Guaderrama said. “I felt empty inside.”

He had a friend, though, who kept talking to him “about God, about Jesus.” That friend didn’t let up and even invited Guaderrama to a Christian event with speakers and bands in Columbia.

Guaderrama wasn’t sure. He asked God if he was real and for a sign. Then two days before the event, “I sold 35 paintings in one night.”

So Guaderrama bought tickets, left the gallery and went to Columbia. “That was the start of a new life,” he said. “I surrendered myself to God ... I learned that the person who needed changing was me.”

When he returned to his gallery, “I asked my team to forgive me” for the things he had been doing that were wrong.

Guaderrama also had a bad relationship to mend. “God restored that relationship with my girlfriend and she’s now my wife,” he said.

While his wife was born in the United States, Guaderrama had some issues in that regard. He had originally come to the United States illegally, and “I knew I needed a lawyer to fix all the things that I did while I was there.”

God opened doors, and Guaderrama now has U.S. permanent resident status.

“When you give yourself to God and put him first, you find everything,” said Guaderrama, who cites Psalm 34:18 as one of his favorite Bible verses: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

“He changed my whole life,” he said. “I want other people to experience what I experience and to know there is a different kind of life they can live.”

Before he gave his life to Jesus, “I was painting paintings because I knew they would sell. After that, I realized that the only thing I wanted to become was something unique and to share God’s love.”

Now when he walks around his gallery he see people not only laughing, but crying, “and I know it’s not the painting. I know it’s God talking to them. And that is what gives me life and keeps all these things going.”

Guaderrama will be at the opening ceremony for Hispanic Heritage Month set for 5:30–7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at The Art Center, 1803 N. Seventh St.

The “Home Impressions” exhibit can be viewed through Oct. 15.


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