New exhibit celebrates the legacy of Skagit artist Jesus Guillén

“He fell in love with the area the first time he saw it. And, although he worked long, hard hours on the farm, he always found time to paint and draw.”

— Anita Guillén

Jesus Guillén was a noteworthy regional artist who died in 1994 but remains an important part of the art history of the Skagit Valley. Born in Texas in 1926, Mr. Guillén was a migrant agricultural worker who first encountered the La Conner area when he arrived to pick strawberries in 1960. Soon after, he moved his family to a farmworkers’ camp on a local farm and eventually to their longtime family home in La Conner. Throughout his working life, Guillén maintained a disciplined artistic practice and produced drawings, paintings and three-dimensional clay pieces.

The Skagit County Historical Museum will feature a select retrospective of the work of the late artist Jesus Guillén on view through May 2, 2021

Guillén faced hardship and prejudice throughout his life.

“We hope this exhibit will tell the story of one man’s courage to pursue his artistic vision and honor his talent while, at the same time, facing the challenges of agricultural labor and cultural prejudice,” explains Kris Ekstrand, guest curator.

However, as his widow, Anita, wrote, “his palette and his figures show a richness of peace and sensitivity that can be admired by those who have eyes to see and the mind to understand the perseverance of the farm worker.”

This exhibit places Guillén in context with the art history of the Pacific Northwest and the Skagit Valley as it illuminates the connection between his identity as an artist and the many other aspects of his life: his beloved family, his interest in social justice, his lifelong passion for education and literacy, his experience as a farmworker and the root of his aesthetic and spirit in Mexico.

The exhibit is the first comprehensive view of Guillén’s work and includes paintings, drawings, three-dimensional work and a diorama depiction of the artist’s studio much like he left it at his death.

The museum is open Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For updates about Museum operating hours or other information, please call the Museum or visit  skagitcounty.net/departments/HistoricalSociety

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