Fire and Chisel: Juan Bustillos’

metal and wood sculptures


Juan Bustillos infuses each of his work with everything he has. His passion for sculpture is sealed in every piece he produces in bronze and which me gives shape to in the wood he works with, which, for this art show, are the local varieties known as cupesi, toco, trompillo and tipa

His most recent exhibit at Manzana 1 Espacio de Arte is distributed over five themed rooms: the minotaur from Greek mythology, a beast with the body of a man and the head of a bull; the room dedicated to expectant women who are pregnant; the one dedicated to abstract figures and one specifically dedicated to faces with thick lips. All his works are rendered at human scale, but sometimes they are larger than life. The final room is a combination of themes that play on the image of a horse and displays diverse works in small format.

Juan Bustillos’ current exhibit is the result of his extensive experience as a master sculptor enrichened by the insight he has gained over the years, his ability to reinvent himself for each new show, and his work as a dynamic and innovative cultural promoter.

Juan Bustillos

Yungas – La Paz, December 16, 1958

Juan began his career sculpting wood in 1983. He studied this medium in the Santa Cruz Workshop for Visual Arts and stone sculpture in Ted Carrasco’s workshop in La Paz, whereas he learned bronze sculpting at the Kobatake Kobo Institute in Saitama, Japan.

In Santa Cruz, in the year 2000 he created his own art space, Buho Blanco, which is also his own gallery and personal residence, and, in 2007, he opened Buho Blanco  in San Javier, in order to disseminate artistic and cultural events in the Chiquitania region, where there are many large granite rock formations.

He displayed his work and participated in many international sculpture symposiums in Argentina, Peru, Japan, Austria, Germany, as well as in the Symposium Nuestros Parques in 2015, 2016 and 2017, in Santiago de Chile. He received numerous awards in Bolivia, Argentina and Japan. He won the First Prize at the Santa Cruz Biennial many times, in the years 1983, 1993 and 2008, honored with the Sculptor Prize at the First International Triennial Chaco Resistencia in Argentina, in 1991, and given an honorary mention at the 4th Biennial Exhibition of Arts in Makurasaki, Japan, in 1995.

His monumental work is on display in many public spaces in the Bolivian cities of La Paz, Sucre and Santa Cruz, and also in Chengdu, China.

He has been working as a cultural promoter and volunteering co-director of Manzana 1 Espacio de Arte since 2005. At Manzana, he is in charge of organizing and directing the five editions International Sculpture Symposium of Santa Cruz de la Sierra and the five versions of the International Sculpture Symposium of Casa Design Center. He also promotes and sponsors the Entre Amigos Stone Sculpture Symposium in San Javier, which will celebrate its fifth edition in the year 2020. In 2019, he conceived and promoted the first version of the event known as Días de Arte, (Days for art), in which he opens his workshop to the public and brings together a dozen artists from Bolivia and guests from Chile, all of whom have had to become self-promoters of their own creative output.

Juan Bustillos also promotes, under his own initiative, the training of new emerging Bolivia sculptors. Every year, he receives young artists in his workshop, so they can learn their craft from him. Since 2009, he has provided practical training to 25 sculptors. This greatly helps to develop new generations of sculptors in Bolivia.

Juan Bustillos has a vast oeuvre of sculptures in wood, metal and stone.


On the work in the exhibit:



In the mid eighties, when money was worth less than the paper it was printed on, Juan Bustillos decided he would only live off of his art. Even though he worked as a mason, carpenter and had also worked carving furniture, he could barely make ends meet, so he decided to dedicate himself to his art. Thus, though he would make little money, at least he would be doing something that was worth the effort for him.

Now, Bustillos shows the path he has followed. All the scars, joys, threads and labyrinths are on display through this exhibits five halls, rendered in bronze and wood sculptures. His journey passed through sculptures made of the wood of trees felled by the city’s strong gusts of wind, now transformed into women who are looking up at the sky, who bear on their skin the marks of chisel, fire and paint. Other works are abstract landscapes that imitate the patter left by water on the rocks of caves that later turn into huge beds on which an African Ariadne chooses to lie down and sleep, guarded by an old defeated Minotaur who can no longer find the thread he needs to cross his own labyrinth to find the maiden.

Bustillos had to go to Japan to learn how to melt bronze and upon his return, he dedicated himself to sharing what he learned. Now, this technique translates into a room full of pregnant women awaiting the country’s future in precarious chairs. Expectation and pregnancy is a recurring, almost eternal theme in his work. He is fascinated by the enchantments produced during pregnancy – the metamorphoses undergone by the human body, the magic during the pregnancy, the hope and desire to bear a child – as well as the shape, the birth of the curve, the rhythms of the human body.

Through the years, this young working class man who came to Santa Cruz from the cold of the city of La Paz, to find the heat he remembered as a child from Yungas, has become an artist and cultural promoter, who is able to give his work as a gift to the city that welcomed him.

Bustillos has gifted the city one of the works in this exhibit: El chancho de los deseos y la abundancia [The pig of wishes and abundance] – a piggy bank woven out of iron and covered by the public with locks. This sculpture belongs to each and every one of the city’s people. Lock by lock, commitment by commitment, the people of Santa Cruz will transform the work.

Juan has lost all count of the number of exhibits and sculptures he has created, but the city of Santa Cruz grows ever more aware and grateful of his presence here.

Pablo Ortiz