Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Felipe Lettersten

Felipe Lettersten

We recently visited Puerto Rico. My personal highlight was at the 'Museo las Americas' in San Juan. They had an exhibit, a permanent one, titled 'El indio en America:'

It included a series of  statues of native Americans, Indians, mostly from South and Central America. The statues were so lifelike! Then on exiting there was a television display of how they were made--and the philosophy of the artist.

It ends up that the statues are made from life--the models, the natives, are coated with plaster of paris from head to toe. The moulds were then taken back to the studio where the statues were created. The

artist always returned a copy of the completed statue to the native tribes.

Wonderful...   but so little is left of our knowledge of Felipe Lettersten. I thought I should spend a little time to tribute him. So sorry there is no more...

Felipe Lettersten

Birthdate: June 16, 1957
Death:     Died November 11, 2003 in Lima, Peru
Cause of death:    Liver Failiur
Occupation:         Sculpturer

Felipe Letterston, a Swedish-Peruvian artist who dedicated his life to the knowledge and protection of the "Hijos de Nuestra Tierra" or "Sons of our Land".

He was a total artist, but mainly through sculpture he tried to capture in bronze the physical characteristics of the indigenous people of the Americas. Most of them in danger of extinction.

Born in Lima, Peru from Swedish parents... He studied at Markham College in Lima and later in Europe. He was a multi talented artist, besides sculpture he painted and played the piano and the saxophone. He also had a great affinity with plants and animals.

His sculptured have been exhibited in Spain, Hawaii, Japan, Thailand, Sweden, USA, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Cuba, and All of South America

The most interesting thing about Lettersten’s sculptures are that they are made from ‘life’. Technique:
He would have to convince the person to trust him, this was the most difficult part.
Then he would make a frame or structure with steel rods and wire and then completely cover the model with plaster of paris (fast dry). Once dry he would split open the mould and let the model free. After that, in his workshop in Lima, he would pour plaster in the mould and get a plaster statue which he retouched and added the details. Another mould was made and this was casted in bronze or polyurethane fiber.

He reproduced many aboriginal Indian individuals with their native clothes, ornaments and tools and in typical everyday attitudes.

Sioux, Navajo, Apache, Algonquian, Cheyenne, Hopi were some of the North American tribes he portrayed.
Quechua and Aymara from the Andes
Bora, Campa, Machiguenga, Ezeja, Iquitos, Jibaro, Conibos, Shipibos, Cashinaua...from Peru
Camayura, Tumbe, Yanomami, Parakanas, Araras...from Brasil
Caribe, Llanero,...from Venezuela,
among many other tribes that were visited and their members posed for Felipe.

Felipe would return to the tribes he visited with a replica of the statue made in fiber glass as he promised the natives so it could be displayed in the middle of their village.


Charles Scheel said...

I've just come back from Puerto Rico where I visited the Museo de las Americas and was totally stunned by the movie showing how and in what wonderful spirit Felipe Lettersten created his sculptures of so many native Indians all over the world. So sad the man died so young! In any case people visiting Puerto rico should not miss that particular exhibit in that marvelously located museum in Old San Juan.

Unknown said...

Hello, my name is Arnest Dijkstra from The Netherlands. I am 47 now. When I was 24, I visited Peru and I spend several weeks on the boat of Felipe. I saw him making the statues from the natives and I made a lot of pictures. I just found out that Felipe died in 2003. So sorry to hear that. Spending a few weeks with him on his boat and visiting these natives deep in the jungle was the absolute highlight of my visit to Peru. His work was indeed so wonderfull.
Best regards,

Unknown said...

I knew Felipe well and was one of his biggest fans. I was greatly saddened when I heard of his death. We displayed one of the largest collections of his work in South Florida many years ago. I would be willing to put part of his collection together to travel all around the world if his family or those in possession of his work were willing. Please call me at 314-703-6886. Thanks, Charles Zidar

Stephen F said...

We put together exhibitions featuring his creations and housed the exhibitions in tropical greenhouse environments in Sweden,Austria and Israel.We also showed a National Geographic film about him and his work.He was particularly happy about exhibiting in Sweden as his family originated from there.I got to know him rather well.A great shame that he died so young but he has left behind him lots of inspiration for others, which I am sure is keeping Felipe smiling !!

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