"Today, most of my paintings have been inspired by things I've experienced. Part of my theme is the poverty in which many campesinos are submerged."
"My name is Bonifacio Maxia Cutzal but, in my hometown, everyone calls me Boni and that's how I like to be known.
"I was born on May 14, 1962, one of six children. My father worked in the fields. I remember I went to school, but only for one year. My family couldn't afford to keep me in school so, at the age of 11, I went to work in a clothing and shoe store. This brought an extra and very welcome income to my family.
"When I was 15, I began my trajectory in art. There was a photograph of the Cathedral in Guatemala City that I liked very much. I tried to draw it, then I 'painted' it with colored pencils. That's how I became fascinated with the arts. I still have that drawing and I look at it when I need to remember why I began to paint. It helps motivate me when I see how much my work has evolved over more than 20 years as an artist.
"My first painting in oil on canvas was of the Colonial Church of Comalapa. I sold it to a doctor from the capital in 1988. It measured 8 x 11 inches and I sold it for 8 quetzales. It wasn't much, but I felt great satisfaction because it was the first painting I sold as an artist.
"I'm very grateful to my cousin for all I've accomplished. He was already an artist and he saw potential in my paintings. So he supported me a lot by giving me pigments and materials so I could work. Today I try to return the favor by helping others who need my assistance. Everyone who asks me for help receives it, if I can possibly do so. I'm proud that one of my students is my son – he is very interested in following in his father's footsteps as a painter.
"I dedicate part of my time to farming because I'm not able to support my family through my paintings alone. In fact, I haven't painted for a while because of this.
"I'm proud that all of my six children are in school. It was very hard for me to get ahead without a formal education, and I didn't want that for my children. As an adult, I was able to finish my basic education and I was 34 when I graduated. A friend who was studying on Sundays urged me to finish school. I did so because I felt an emptiness inside and a great need to learn more. I had a thirst for knowledge.
"My life has been really tough from the beginning. It isn't easy to be born poor. I've struggled tirelessly to reach my dream of being a painter. It's been a rocky road, filled with complications, but I've been able to combine my farm work with my passion for painting.
"Today, most of my paintings have been inspired by things I've experienced. Part of my theme is the poverty in which many campesinos are submerged. In any case, I always think I'm grateful to have been born to a humble family because this has led me to where I am today. If I had been born rich, I don't think I'd be a painter or, at least, not this kind of painter!
"Through painting, I'm able to express myself, share my feelings and, for me, this is the most fascinating part of my art. I've always looked at painting as a pastime and not as a job. Maybe that's why I enjoy it so much.
"Talking with the Guatemalan artist Roberto Cabrera, I learned one of the lessons that have made me reflect the most and have most influenced my style. Robert said that every artist should have a style of his or her own. That's what's important, he told me. To be unique.
"His words stayed on my mind for a long time. I've analyzed them a lot. I wanted to be different and have people recognize my style just by seeing my work. That's why I paint people with disproportionate extremities, very characteristic faces, and always wearing traditional clothing so as not to forget my people and my roots.
"As an artist, my dream is to be able to continue painting and have an international exhibit. I'd like to see other countries and would like my paintings to cross my country's borders."
Bonifacio Maxia Cutzal's work has participated in a number of exhibits in Guatemala as well as in Norway (1997 and 1998) and Denmark (1997). His works form a part of the murals adorning the kiosk in Comalapa's central park, and he was awarded an Honorable Mention in the XII Bienal de Arte Paiz, Guatemala.