Living in Central America (in my case Honduras and Guatemala) is sometimes hard, mostly fun but never boring. Here some of my musings on life in this colourful part of the world where you can always expect the unexpected. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Cycles of Life

Why an exhibition of round paintings?
Well, why not?
Just wanted to do something a little different this time.

Not half as happy as you normally paint, commented a friend.
Nothing like my colourful portraits of cute puppies. These paintings are based on events I read about in the press and no, that is not something to be happy about.  WTF was mostly my reaction, followed by disgust, anger and sometimes desperation. Here, judge for yourself…

Not One Less… (59cm)
Hardly a day goes by without a woman being brutally murdered in Guatemala. In 2018 there were 228 reported victims. It seems 209 is going to be even worse. 

 Survivor Series (65cm, 56cm, 34.5cm. Double portrait Milagros: 39.5cm)

On June 3rd of 2018 the Fuego volcano erupted and covered several communities under a thick layer of ashes and other debris. To this day there are still people buried at what was named Zone 0. Other people (and animals) did survive. These children were some of the kids I worked with at the shelter. The dog Milagros eerily had “Ayuda” (help) written on her side. We never knew whether help was asked for her or her owners. Milagros (“Miracles”, as I named her) was very sick but made it against all odds en is now living the life in the USA.

Ghost Towns (41 and 20cm)
There are ghost towns and there are ghost towns… The first one is deserted and completely unliveable as is San Miguel Los Lotes after the volcano eruption (although reconstruction of parts of the community is under way).
Another sort of ghost town is a community you invent, such as El Paxtal, so the government will invest in a state of the art highway to this non-existing community. That’s what you do if you’re a congress woman and you happen to own a spa in that place.

Golden Balls (50cm)
February 2018. The Board of Veterinarians decides to raise the price of castrations for cats and dogs to Q950.
In a country where there is a huge overpopulation of dogs and cats and where people barley can afford to feed them, this is completely ludicrous.

Guatemalan Landscapes (41cm, 35cm, 21cm)

Guatemala is a fantastic country with incredible natural resources. However, if you look around it’s mostly trash you see. I would really like to see patriotism being expressed though a better care of this beautiful land…

“Rapists and Murderers” (34.5cm (without frame), ink and watercolour, )
Rosendo Noviega, a 38-year-old migrant from Guatemala, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, holds his daughter Belinda Izabel as he walks along the highway to Juchitan from Santiago Niltepec, Mexico, October 30, 2018. An estimated 2,300 children are travelling with the migrant caravan headed north to the U.S.-Mexico border, UNICEF said, adding that they needed protection and access to essential services like healthcare, clean water and sanitation.
REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
Someone else said the migrants were “murderers and rapists”.

Bones of Memory (50cm)
Mass graves from the civil war are still being found and forensic scientists relentlessly work to identify the victims. On June 24 of 2018, 172 Victims of the civil war are finally officially buried in San Juan Comalapa.   

Hogar Seguro /Safe House (75cm)
At first glance quite a happy, colourful painting of a bunch of butterflies in a shadowbox.
However, each butterfly carries the name of one of the 41 girls who lost their lives sat the Virgen de la Asunción Safe Home in San José Pinula, Guatemala.
This government-run children’s home had been under investigation for multiple reports of abuse of the children. In March of 2017 a group of adolescents decided to escape the home. They were hunted down as if they were dangerous criminals. While the boys were sent back to their dorms, the girls were locked in a classroom without water or access to a bathroom. After long hours, the girls lit up some mattresses in order to get the attention of the two police officers guarding the padlocked door. The fire got out of hand; the door wasn’t opened until it was much too late. 41 girls lost their lives, another 15 were badly injured.

Cycle of Life (Gouache 27cm) / Survivor of Life (46cm)
And those two beautiful ladies have just seen it all…

This show is on till May 6th, 2019 at Galería Mesón Panza Verde, 5a Avenida Sur, Antigua Guatemala.

All works are for sale except for Survivor: Superhero and Golden Balls. All materials are acrylic, unless otherwise mentioned.
For more information, please contact the artist at carinsteen at

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Story Behind the Painting: The Volcano Eruption Superhero

Superhero, acrylics on metal, 56cm diameter
It was less than a week after the Fuego volcano erupted and it was still chaos. People who left or lost their homes were accommodated in schools and churches. Rucks full of donations kept arriving in causing so much congestion in the centre of Alotenango that it was decided to cordon off the whole town for traffic. Many solidary souls wanted to give directly to the victims while the municipality tried to keep control by storing the goods away and closing the shelters. Still, there were tons of people around, doctors, nurses, psychologist, church groups and others. Some helping, some gawking, but in general too many in too small a space.
And then there was us. Swept along the emotional wave of wanting to do something we had worked our way into the shelter to offer some art activities and story telling to the children. Not such a bad idea, since so far the only distractions for the kids had been one piñata after the other and loads and loads of candy.

That first experience (we went back a total of 25 times) was surreal. While in Zone 0 fire fighters and residents were still looking for the remains of their loved ones (and wouldn’t stop for many months to come), life in the shelter was, little by little, taking shape. Children played hide and seek behind a pile of coffins stacked high up in a corner. Some boys were paying football with the balls they had just been given, dodging women hanging their laundry and making their way to the improvised showers.
Over a cacophony of sounds of too many people in too small a space, the sombre sounds of funeral marches wear still audible. However, most kids were completely oblivious to their surrounding and happily absorbed in their art work. All except one. A little boy with a superhero mask and cape was running around as if the world belonged to him. He ran through corridors, jumped up and down on benches, barely missed a pregnant woman, evaded a man carrying donations before ducking under a table. Nobody told him off or even seemed to notice. Surrounded by many he was all by himself in his own world, very busy saving it. Watching him was like a movie scene in which the world slowed down while the superhero flashed around. I asked the boy if I could take a picture which was allowed. But only for a split second before he was off again, to save the world that needs so much saving.

For more information on our first visit to the shelter, please visit: