Our artist for this second week of Lent is JOSE IGNACIO FLETES CRUZ who was born in 1952 in Managua, Nicaragua. He is a Primitivista artist, whose naif style of image-making is associated with a utopian Christian community, founded in the mid 1960s by the Catholic Poet-Priest, Ernesto Cardenal, in the remote Solentiname island chain at the southern end of Lake Nicaragua.
A disciple of Trappist Monk Thomas Merton, Ernesto was an ardent proponent of Liberation Theology and believed the Church should actively support the poor in their struggle for social and economic justice. Soon after he arrived on the main island of Mancarron, the parish church became a center where the fishermen and farmers of the archipelago could learn about art, poetry, and radical Christianity. Thus the Solentiname community was born.
Ernesto noticed the islanders were skilled in decorating gourds, and invited Nicaraguan Figurative Painter Roger Perez de la Rocha to come to the community in 1968 to give art lessons. Many of the locals knew so little about art-making, they thought, at first, the metal tubes of oil paint were colored tooth paste, but they took up painting on canvas with enthusiasm. Soon whole families were creating landscapes, typical scenes from village life, and stories from the Bible in the naif folk art style, which has come to be known as Nicaraguan Primitivism. Fletes Cruz was an outsider who came to islands to take part in the unique social experiment. Born in Managua, he had taken art courses in Leon and shared the community’s Christian ideals and egalitarian politics.
He has had exhibitions all over the world. In 2007 fifteen paintings by Ignacio Fletes Cruz were selected for permanent display in the new US Embassy and the offices of the US Agency for International Development in Managua, Nicaragua
Fletes Cruz’s depiction of Jesus Christ Crucified (The Christ of the Poor) brings to mind the 1977 attack on the community by the Somoza National Guard, who appear beneath the Cross, wearing U.S. military-issue camouflage outfits.
Fletes Cruz describes his art as “a visual representation of the revolution of Christ, of what Christ is doing within us.”