Ricardo Morales, otherwise known as Richie, is a young, talented Guatemalan artist who is visiting Madison this summer. As part of an invitation extended by Centro Hispano of Dane County in partnership with Dane Arts Murals Arts (DAMA), he is painting a mural at Centro with Latino youth and doing presentations around the Madison area.
Although he was born in Guatemala City, Richie spent the first five years of his life in Jocotán, Chiquimula, one of the poorest areas in Guatemala. Then, he moved to Jocotenango, Sacatepequez, 45 minutes away from Guatemala City, and has been living there since then. At an early age, he used to draw cartoons of his friends as the ones he would see in newspapers and encyclopedias. However, as a teenager he found himself addicted to drugs and alcohol. His addiction almost took his life. But, as he was rehabilitating from this illness, he found his passion for painting. Painting cured and saved him.
Jocotenango, as most parts of Guatemala, has experienced violence as part of the aftermath of the bloody civil war and the social inequalities that affect the country. Most of Morales’s childhood friends have died due to violence. His first art exhibition, Xibalba, was inspired by his experiences as a rehabilitated alcoholic and drug addict, especially as he recovered from zoopsia, which is a form of hallucination in which he imagined seeing animals. Some of his paintings were sold in Antigua Guatemala along with others that were inspired by his traveling and love for biking.
Now, Morales has found his new identity as an artist. He uses his art to create dialogues about the injustices that go unseen and unspoken in mainstream contemporary Guatemala. In 2013, he was an artist in residence in Vermont Studio Center. It was there where he exhibited a series of paintings called “Las Voces del Genocidio” (Voices of Genocide) in which he discusses the atrocities committed against the Guatemalan people during the armed conflict; most of which were committed against Mayan communities. In particular, this exhibition focuses on the mass grave exhumations of those who disappeared and were murdered during the war. “My art might be not lie within the connotation of beautiful,” he states, “but they are pieces of expressions that reflect the Guatemalan reality”
His latest series of paintings “Neo-Folklor” explores the impact of social violence not only from the victim’s perspective but also from the perpetrator’s perspective. This violence has deep roots in the armed conflict and now it represents itself through violence from dark forces such as drug trafficking, gang violence and crime. These paintings are a cruel reminder of the lack of governability and the social decomposition the country experiences. Furthermore, this art is a call to end this condition and an opportunity for Guatemalans to dream and work towards the country they envision.
This summer, Madison has the unique opportunity to experience his art. Richie is in the process of painting a mural at Centro Hispano with a small group of young Latino High School students from Madison.
For more information about Richie’s work visit: