The artists are from the Mayan villages of San Juan La Laguna, San Pedro La Laguna, Comalapa and other parts of Guatemala. Many are known for their distinctive style, sometimes known as “art naif”, and for the “vista de pajaro” (bird’s eye view) perspective. Their works of art have been exhibited in places such as the Smithsonian in Washington and galleries and shows internationally. 

This collection features both better and lesser known artists who paint not so much for individual recognition, but more to celebrate their culture and way of life. They often learn their skills and styles from other artists and family members much in the same way as the textile artists of their communities who have woven their history and culture into their fabrics for centuries.

Lorna with artist Paula Nicho Cumez 

(one of the pre-eminent women artists of Guatemala)

Angelina Quic Ixtamer
Angelina  was born in 1972 in San Juan La Laguna on lake Atitlan and is one of only a few women painters. The following quotes are from an interview with her in May of 2013.
 "Most of the women in my village do fine embroideries and weaving, but I wanted to do something different. My boyfriend, Antonio Mendoza Coche who is now my husband, introduced me to oil painting. He taught me how to mix colors, which is an essential part of the art of painting.  That's how I got on the path of becoming an artist.”

"I am proud to say I am the first woman in my village to paint with oils. At first I had to face severe criticism from other women because they regarded painting as exclusive to men. However I never gave up despite their harsh comments and I fought to get ahead. Today I am very proud of persevering in my art.”

“When I first began, I painted still life compositions. My favorite style, and the one I'm renowned for, is called 'bird's eye view.' It all began in 1992, when I was walking to the fair in a village nearby with my husband, and we stopped for a break. From that point we had a view of the landscape and villages below – it was so beautiful! It inspired me to paint like that, like seen from above, so I made my husband go up on rooftops and take photos of markets, and children, I also like to paint women weaving. Nowadays this style is renowned throughout Guatemala and many people work it, but my compositions are different because there is more work involved, including four layers of paint and many more details. I can take up to 20 days to finish a painting. I work on two or three paintings at a time.

"In 2002, my husband and I were finally able to set up our own studio-gallery. My dream as an artist is to find a place where I can sell my compositions and exhibit my work in other countries. I would love to travel – it would be amazing if my paintings took me to visit other countries. I've exhibited extensively in Guatemala and collectors from the United States and other countries have purchased my paintings.

"What I love most about what I do is that when I paint, I think back to the lives of our predecessors and the work they did on the fields, which is deeply rooted in my country's culture. Working the fields reminds me of my father because he dedicated his life to agriculture. I used to help with the coffee harvest and picked about sixty pounds a day. Now my husband and I are able to support ourselves with our art. Our art helps us to take pride in our culture and our community and to help preserve our traditions.. People begin to take us into account and value us.”

 Angelina Quic Ixtamer – Exhibitions and prizes


1995 – Art Gallery, Solala, Guatemala
1997 – INGUAT Artisan Market, Guatemala
1999 – Bank Holiday, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala
1999 – Museum of the Central American Brewery, Guatemala
1999 – Embasy of the United States, Guatemala City, Guatemala
2002 – The Meeting Inn, Panajachel, Guatemala
2002 – The Italian Institute, Guatemala
2002 – The Palace of Culture, Guatemala
2003 – Spanish Cooperation, Antigua, Guatemala
2003 – Santo Domingo Hotel, Antigua, Guatemala
2003 – La Cumbancha, Panajachel, Guatemala
2004 – Solo show in United States
2004- Switzerland
2006 – “Magic Mountains, Mystic Valleys”, Gina Gallery of International Naive Art, Tel Aviv, Israel.


1st Prize, Popular Painting Contest, Earth Day Solar Foundation
Acknowledgement, Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation Poster Contest, Guatemala
Acknowledgement, Earth Day, Guatemala
Acknowledgement, MAYAFER – National Fair of Cultures, Guatemala

Antonio  Coche Mendoza
Antonio Coche Mendoza was born in the Tz’utuhil Maya village of San Juan la Laguna on Lake Atitlan in March of 1968. He began to draw with crayons and tempura on paper at age 7, and was painting in oil on canvas at the age of 12.  In 2002, Antonio and his wife Angelina Quic Ixtamer opened a gallery called Chi Ya. It is the most prominent gallery in San Juan La Laguna. It is an association featuring 15 artists including several of his brothers.  Antonio and his wife Angelina are the featured artists. They have one adopted daughter and also operate a small variety store next to the gallery to help bring in a little extra income.

The following are quotes from an interview with Antonio in May of 2012.

 “I was the first person in my family to start painting. At that time there were no other painters depicting popular culture such as festivals, Guatemalan buses and portraits, etc. Now there many who paint similar themes.”

“My father did chiaroscuro drawings. He worked in the fields planting corn.  I am one of ten children.  Now, five of my brothers paint and several have copied me. At one time I taught art to children and had many students.”

“My work has been featured in many expositions both nationally and internationally and I won several prizes. Collectors have taken my work to the United States, Mexico, Israel and Switzerland.”  (Antonio is represented in the UNESCO book titled “Arte Naif – Guatemala”, published in 1998. Two different paintings by Antonio Coche are pictured in that book.)

“Painting the culture and the traditions helps to preserve them, and in addition helps to validate them.  Many of the residents of San Juan appreciate how we are depicting and valuing our culture through our art. It is important to paint life as it was in the past. We are happy that the painters of San Juan attract tourism.”
Antonio  Coche Mendoza – Exhibitions and publications


1998 – Biennial de Paiz, Guatemala – first prize
2003 – Pyrus Collection Gallery, Park City, Utah, USA
2003 – Oasis Café Gallery, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
2004 – American Embassy, Guatemala City, Guatemala
2004- Gallery at Library Square, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
2006 – “Magic Mountains, Mystic Valleys”, GINA Gallery of International Naïve Art, Tel Aviv,    Israel


2001 – Art Naif: Contemporary Guatemalan Paintings, UNESCO/Fundacion Pais

Henry Mendez Chavajay
Henry was born in 1973 in San Pedro La Laguna, and was the youngest of his family.  Like his brother, Jose and many other Tz’utujil youth, he completed the sixth grade and then went to work with his family.  When he was 14 years old, he asked brother Jose, who had begun to paint for a living, to teach him to use oil and canvas.  He has had no other training, and has been painting for a living since then.  He and his brother often collaborate on paintings but Henry has his own style, as well.  Henry lives in his parents’ home with his wife, Aracely, formerly a Spanish teacher, and their two little girls. His six year old daughter is already showing ability in drawing. 

Henry and his brother, Jose, also founded an after school arts program in 2008 for youth from single mothers and economically challenged households called “Ayudame a Pintar Mi Futuro” (Help Me Paint My Future). Henry says he was inspired to help young people from disadvantaged households because of his own family situation and struggles with alcohol and drugs which he was able to overcome. He and his brother wanted to create a place where young people could come to express themselves, learn painting skills, build self-confidence and envision a positive future. Henry has devoted his life to being an artist and to helping to run the program. He continues to develop his painting style and to work with themes that explore how traditional Mayan culture and the modern world intersect.

Gregorio Coche Mendoza
Gregorio and his wife, Vicenta, live in San Pedro La Laguna where Gregorio has his studio. They also have a small gallery in San Juan La Laguna to sell their paintings to tourists. His wife also paints and is a skilled maker of beaded belts and other accessories.  The have a son and a daughter who also show much enthusiasm and talent for art.

The following are quotes from an interview with Gregorio in May of 2013.

“I was born in San Juan La Laguna in 1977. Since I was a small child, I have always had artistic talent. My father liked to draw and had a lot of talent, but he was not able to support his family as an artist and had to work in the the fields . Two of my older brothers are artists. I started at 16 years old to to paint for half a day and work in the fields for the other half of the              day. At first I would practice drawing on paper from nature.”

“My first paintings were small and I had to take them to sell in a larger town called Santiago Atitlan where I had to put them on consignment and sell them very cheaply.  When I first started painting, it was hard to make a living and I suffered a lot. I hardly had enough money to buy paints and brushes and canvas.  I love art.  I wouldn’t be able to do any other kind of work. Sometimes I dream ideas for paintings.”

“It’s very important to value our culture. Art helps to preserve our culture, and it is depicted in our paintings. It helps to remind us of the traditions which we are quickly losing. That is why we speak with our elders about the past.”

“Coffee growing is a very important here because it generates work. During the coffee harvest, people come from all over to pick coffee. You can see in the paintings of the coffee harvest that
many different types of typical costumes are depicted. That is because people from each village wear unique clothing which identifies them.  You can also see that women carry their babies on their backs while they are harvesting coffee. You can also see people with gourds. Gourds are used to carry drinking water.”
“I believe in God. When my wife who is from San Pedro wanted me to move to her town, I agreed to with the condition that I be able to build an altar in the room where I would paint. I ask God for help. God gives you surprises and I am now successful as an artist and paint full time.  

Juan Edwin Mendoza

Juan Edwin Mendoza was born in 1984 in San Juan la Laguna.  He is the only male child and has six female siblings. As a result he says he always been comfortable being with women and has become a champion of women’s rights. Juan’s father was a principled man with great integrity who defended the underdog. He often gave away food to those in need putting stress on the family who sometimes felt they went hungry as a result. Juan has changed his perspective on his father’s actions and now appreciates how he himself was influenced by his father to be a defender of justice.

Juan was introduced to art by his uncle who was an established artist with a gallery in San Juan.  Juan started drawing with crayons and pencils alongside his uncle as he painted. Juan was very attached to his uncle and spent several years under his tutelage. Afterwards, Juan studied art in Guatemala City at INAP (Instituto Nacional de Artes Plasticas) where he went through a rigorous training and was introduced to a wide spectrum of techniques, mediums and forms of artistic expression. When he returned to San Juan where the majority of painters painted within certain accepted styles, he found they did not understand and disapproved of his more experimental work. Juan also differed from many of the other painters in that he refused to reproduce paintings just because there is a demand or just for the sake of making money. Juan is an artist in the purest sense who paints from the heart and what is revealed to him to give expression to.  

Juan said that the he suffered the biggest loss in his life was when his uncle passed away several years ago and he entered a deep depression and decided to give up art. His girlfriend told him that to give up art was to rob the world of the important messages he had to share through his  art. His girlfriend’s father offered him a room facing the street to paint in and open a gallery. In 2011, Juan opened up his gallery named Imox after his Mayan “nahual” (Mayan astrological sign).  Juan has also opened his gallery space to three other artists to show their work and does not charge a commission on the sales. His only pre-requisite is that all the paintings need to be one of a kind. Juan said that reproducing art is like being imprisoned because one cannot be happy and one’s spirit cannot express itself.  Juan has been successfully selling his art much to the surprise of the other artists in the town. Juan says that buyers appreciate his vision and originality.

Juan has dedicated himself to learning more about his Mayan history and culture and the Mayan “cosmovision” which are themes that are often depicted in his paintings. He speaks about expressing “energies” in his paintings and many of his paintings have this element. Another theme which is the central focus of his paintings is Nature. He is concerned about nature being disrespected, destroyed and poisoned with toxic chemicals on a global scale in the name of greed. One of his paintings poignantly depicts a monkey holding tightly onto her baby, surrounded by a waste land of stumps of trees. Another painting depicts a smiling young girl with the roots of trees as hair. An array of birds surround her and have landed in her hands and hair. Juan said that the symbolism of this painting is that we need to preserve the natural world for the children so that they can be happy and learn about nature. He said that we all need to be defenders of nature and be her voice. His hope is that his paintings can convey these messages. 

Ottoniel Chavajay

Ottoniel Chavajay was born in San Pedro in 1976.  He has seven brothers and sisters. His father was kidnapped in 1980 when Ottoniel was 4 years old - a victim of the civil war which was devastating to almost every Mayan community on Lake Atitlan.  Ottoniel said that art has helped him a great deal with this great loss which he and his family suffered.

Otoniel began drawing in elementary school with pencils and crayons and started creating cartoons and portraits. He was acknowledged and appreciated by his teachers which helped inspire him to continue. Later, he began doing pencil drawings and chiaroscuro and then began doing oil paintings on canvas.  Ottoniel enjoys painting a number of styles, but his favorite is Vista de Pajaro or Birds eye view. He said that he loves to paint and is content when he is painting. Ottoniel has his studio and gallery attached his home.

Ottoniel has received widespread recognition for his painting both nationally and abroad. He was invited to attend an event at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC to present his work and his culture. He has also gained widespread recognition in Antigua and Guatemala City galleries where he is a featured artist. Ottoniel's subject matter includes portraits, landscapes, traditional ceremonies, market scenes and harvesting of coffee, corn and other foods. In spite of being a well recognized artist, he still struggles to make ends meet, and an increase in the sale of his paintings motivates him to continue painting.

Ottoniel is also a teacher in a secondary school where he instructs art to students who are seriously interested in pursuing art as a career. Ottoniel believes that art has the potential to preserve, inform and foster an appreciation of Mayan culture and traditions to tourists and people in other countries and can help to preserve his culture. He is also particularly concerned about loss of language and traditions in his own community and feels that art can play an important role in informing and motivating youth to appreciate and take pride in their own culture and to keep it alive. 


  1. We purchased Papayas and El Cacao from Gregorio Coche Mendoza exhibit at Casa Santo Domingo a few years ago. They are now next to our kitchen table in Maryland, USA. We love them, so does everyone who sees them! Please let us know if there is a way we could help sell your art on

  2. Como puedo comprar pinturas de ottoniel chavajay. Vivo en Miami. Por favor respondanme

  3. Wonderful story.I am painting a lot now after doing nursing for many years.Art was my first love.