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Our Man in Honduras

For a half-dozen years, artist Steve Rogers has been taking vacations in Central America--ostensibly just another camera-toting gringo in shorts, pottering around picturesque villages and ancient archeological sites.

But the mental images he collects and turns into terra-cotta tableaux smolder with outrage at the suffering and injustice in war-torn countries.

In his new show, “Honduran Holiday” at Rosamund Felsen Gallery in West Hollywood, Rogers has created impassioned heroic narratives of south-of-the-border horrors.

“I’m not political, but I really feel for these people,” the 43-year-old artist says.

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A Vietnam veteran raised on a farm in the San Bernardino area, Rogers admits that his interest in the effects of conflict on simple rural life is probably subliminal. Sitting in a sweltering downtown studio, where he lives alone with his cats, he is the portrait of a peaceful artist concerned with his craft.

Two years ago he turned to the bloodletting in Latin America as his subject matter. Yet his own experience with the region’s violence is decidedly limited.

In last year’s trip to Honduras, the inspiration for his show, a young guard waved a machine gun at him when he approached the gates of an airport under military control.

“He was just as scared as I was,” Rogers says with a laugh.

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Indeed, Rogers mixes war and the gringo world with ironic wit. Unaware, Western tourists go about their vacations, happily snapping photos of cultural artifacts, as soldiers in camouflage fatigues lurk in the jungle. In his title piece, the tourists become picture-snapping GIs, taking time off from war games to visit the noted Mayan ruins at Copan.

“They’re ugly people. They trample on everything,” Rogers says of the tourists. Then, adds the ultimate shutterbug of his own work, “I’m probably ugly, though I try not to be.”


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