Who is Gilberto Bendaña?
A Creative with Industrial Design Inspired Artwork
When asked what he would call himself, whether an artist, a designer, an artisan or whatever else he could catalogue himself as, it is difficult for Bendaña to answer my question. After some conversation, he chooses the word “creative.” At first sight, a lot of Gilberto Bendaña’s creations bring to mind contemporary industrial design pieces; especially when I learn that their functionality is first and foremost on his mind. Upon further examination and conversation, the use of repurposed materials and found objects in his creations add a unique and inspiring spin to the pieces.
It’s nice to see things in their natural state and alter them as little as possible so that the natural beauty remains. I want you to like it and use it at home. Nearly everything I make has a function.
Even though his artwork can be and has been present at artisan fairs, it is plain to see that he produces pieces which are different than what is conventionally viewed as traditional handicrafts in Honduras. He prides himself in making pieces that are unique. Most of the time a piece is one-and-only, and replicas are a product of commissions.
Currently, Bendaña works with paint on glass and on wood, with found and repurposed wood products, with clay roof tiles, and many other materials. He mentions that often he will find a piece of wood in its natural state and will leave it alone for days, for weeks or even months until inspiration strikes, frequently in the middle of working on a different piece. Precisely for these moments, he keeps a notebook where he stores sketches and ideas for later use.
Wine and Glass Holder with Crossed Bottles on Two Levels with corresponding sketch, by Gilberto Bendaña || Photo: V. Arita || Tegucigalpa || February 2014
A Family Man with a Personal Support and Creative Network
Gilberto Bendaña is through and through a family man who believes artisans and artists need more support in this country.
Our artisans are maestros at what they do, but they have been categorized [into those who work only certain types of handicrafts.] It is not a bad thing to do things differently.
While this support from others is something all creative people crave, it is clear that Bendaña enjoys the fulfillment his work brings. He refers to his wife and daughters as his greatest treasure and as what moves and inspires him. His three daughters are “divine, lovely, precious, incredible, amazing, fun, beautiful works of art.” Before our official interview began, he had already shared the purpose behind his work: to support his family. He subscribes to a philosophy passed on to him at a conference he once attended. The premise is that no matter what we do for a living, we should work for ourselves and for our families, not for a business or for our clients. When he described the path that has led him to this point, he made sure to emphasize what a great support his wife Liza, present at the interview, has been throughout his development in this new career.
She was always an encouragement. «Get into it, make the most of this ability you have.» She supports me unconditionally and blindly.
Bendaña feels greatly blessed by the wonderful support and creative network he also finds in the rest of his family. He began by describing his father as a mentor who taught him the basics of using and caring for tools when, as an 11-year-old, he first displayed an interest in woodworking. He tells a humorous story about his mother, his biggest fan, who owns a collection of the first few pieces he created: a series of replicas based on houses and buildings connected to their family history. She acquired them piece by piece as he completed each one because she could not bear to part from them. In the same manner, he shares multiple examples of the way his siblings, sisters-in-law and other key members offer their support in sharing photographs of his work with others and giving him valuable feedback. But what struck me the most, was an affirmation made by another young artist. Liza shared with me what one of their daughters thinks of her dad’s work: “She says her father is an artist.”
Well– I said to myself– there is the answer: Gilberto Bendaña is an artist. His daughter, Pia (9), affirms it.