Marie Selby Botanical Garden Logo

Rainforest Masks of Costa Rica Artist Bios

The Rainforest Masks of Costa Rica exhibition highlights the artistry of the Indigenous Boruca tribe of Costa Rica.  For the 18th consecutive year, the Museum of Botany & the Arts will showcase hundreds of beautiful hand-carved and painted balsa wood masks featuring the stunning flora and fauna of the tropical rainforest.

For the Boruca people, mask making is a way of life closely tied to their communal history and identity.  Mask making is a collaborative process between carvers and painters.  A design is sketched onto a prepared balsa log, which is intricately carved.  The carved mask is then painted with vibrant colors and bold patterns.  Each mask combines imagery drawn from nature and the artists’ own imaginations.  The result is an artistic expression unlike any other.

blank

Bernardo Gonzáles Morales

Mask Artist Painter – Boruca, Costa Rica

I am proud that, with the help from these masks, I was able to pay for my son to attend a special school in San Jose.”

Bernardo is a prolific artist who is often in high demand in his village.  He sometimes carves his own pieces, but mostly spends his time collaborating with other artists who trade their carving skills for his painting.  When he is not working on a mask, he enjoys spending time with his family.

blank

Deiner Mauricio Maroto Lazaro

Mask Artist Painter – Boruca, Costa Rica

My technique keeps evolving each year and I am achieving finer finishes. One of my artistic goals is to expand my art and explore painting on canvas.”

Deiner has enjoyed drawing since he was young.  He started painting masks in 2014 as a 15-year-old boy.  He is fond of making ecological masks and especially enjoys painting hummingbirds and orchids.  He envisions creating his own space one day to promote his art.  He also dreams of studying system engineering.

blank

I was inspired by the flora and fauna of our land and combined them into one piece to showcase the riches of our people.”

blank

Domingo Rojas Morales

Mask Artist Painter – Boruca, Costa Rica

I have been creating masks since 2000.  I put my heart and soul into each detail, which is why it takes me two to three days to complete a mask.  Often, I wander up the mountains to find inspiration.”

Domingo’s work has a distinctive and uplifting boldness.  For three years he lived in Guanacaste, a tourist beach town, where he had the experience of managing his own gallery.  This gave him a unique perspective on what it takes to promote his own art.  Domingo is currently studying to become a schoolteacher and hopes to finish his degree in 2022.

blank

Not only hummingbirds depend on flower nectar for food.  Butterflies take nectar from orchids, and we also find beautifully colored birds looking for other insects in these flowers.  With this piece I wanted to capture that inter-connection that occurs around an orchid, reflecting the natural harmony and chain of life.”

blank

Emilio Granda Obando

Mask Artist Carver – Boruca, Costa Rica

Carving is my passion and my way of life.  I started carving Boruca masks in 2009 thanks to my uncle and teacher, Germán. Now, for our traditional festivals, I help many young people in my community with their masks.”

Emilio has spent years perfecting his art and enjoys working in the company of other artist carvers at Taller Brúncrin.  He is particularly fond of depicting birds and often goes to his favorite spot near the water to admire nature and get inspiration for his pieces.  He dreams of traveling one day to exotic places such as Machu Picchu, Peru, to see the beautiful landscapes there.

blank

This work was inspired by the beautiful wild animals and their way of respecting nature.  We must take care and protect the flora and fauna as they are our wealth and make our mountains more beautiful.”

blank

Esteban Morales Lazaro

Mask Artist Carver – Boruca, Costa Rica

As a Borucan artist, I feel something really special when my art flows from my imagination.  And I pour all my heart into my work, hoping other people will admire it.”

Esteban started carving when he was 16 years old and was taught this art by his older brother Omer and his uncle Germán.  Esteban enjoys envisioning and designing his own original pieces and collaborates with several painters to make them really pop.  Esteban lives in Boruca with his wife Margie and their four children.  Esteban is proud that, through his work, he can offer his family a more comfortable life than the one he had growing up.

blank

Francisco Morales Gonzales

Mask Artist Carver – Boruca, Costa Rica

My favorite place to work is on my ranch.  In the mountains, and surrounded by nature, everything becomes an inspiration.  So I grab a piece of wood and start to draw, and little by little my designs come to life.”

Francisco started carving masks while in high school and learned his distinctive style from his stepdad.  Francisco does not consider himself a perfectionist, but he does take his time with each piece and give it those extra details and finishing touches that make it stand out.  He hopes one day to learn how to paint his own masks.  He is also interested in learning English so that he can communicate directly with the tourists who visit his village.

blank

Germán Morales Delgado

Mask Artist Carver – Boruca, Costa Rica

I want to deliver only top-quality carvings and I take pride in my creativity.  I enjoy creating spectacular masks, and nature is my true inspiration as it is so beautiful.

Germán started carving masks while in his teens.  He learned the basics from an older brother who had apprenticed with Master Don Ismael.  With natural talent, curiosity, and a steady hand, Germán perfected his craft and developed a style of his own.  He has trained many young Borucans and is now considered the mentor within the carvers at Taller Brún̈crin̈.  Germán’s love for orchids and flowers is obvious, and he enjoys the challenge of representing their delicacy and beauty, making them as lifelike as possible.

blank

This piece symbolizes the contrast between two very different animals.  The hummingbird, which is a very fragile and tiny animal, but also very beautiful with its colors, on top of the jaguar’s head, which symbolizes power, strength, and grandeur.  Both very essential for life, for an ecosystem.”

blank

Loly Maria de los Santos

Jicara Figurine Artist Carver – Boruca, Costa Rica

One day someone gave me a jicara, and I saw something special, so I kept it.  Many years passed before the inspiration came to me to create animals with it.”

Loly has created a new art with the jicara fruit, which grow in trees around the village and has been historically decorated to make containers, water bottles, and maracas.  Loly dries and boils the fruit for hours to cure and clean it.  She then envisions her animal, carving the legs, head, and tail in balsa wood.  Her grandson works alongside her as a painter, adding the color.

blank

Luis Miguel Rojas Morales

Mask Artist Painter – Boruca, Costa Rica

In 2007 I began painting masks.  From then on, every piece I paint conveys my feelings through the colors I use.  I hope that the people who see my work will feel something too.”

As the youngest of 11 siblings, Luis Miguel has been lucky to have many teachers within his family.  After watching his elder brothers work, he successfully created a style of his own.  He enjoys learning new painting techniques.  When he is not creating masks, he is studying towards a degree in computer technology.

blank

Marcos Rojas Morales

Mask Artist Painter – Boruca, Costa Rica

Creating these masks allows me to discover myself and my culture.  I was fortunate to study traditional mask making under Don Ismael, the great teacher.  In the mid-1990s, after seeing how the new colorful masks were growing in popularity, I taught myself how to paint.”

Marcos is a master Borucan artist, equipped with a bold imagination, years of carving experience, and exceptional painting skills.  He is passionate about his ancestral heritage and enjoys visiting archeological sites to gain inspiration for his art.  He is a proud ambassador for Boruca and actively exhibits his work throughout Costa Rica.  Recently, he started sharing his art through painting workshops where he teaches others in Costa Rica about their own cultural heritage, which helps build bridges among its people.

blank

This mask represents the life of the Boruca culture.  The shaman’s face in clay represents the earth used to make our ceremonial utensils or vessels.  The stone element is considered a portal to the world of our ancestors.  Finally, the frog that is always next to the water symbolizes life.  These three elements are an important part of our cosmovision and of how our culture was born.”

blank

Melvin Gonzáles Rojas (Kamel)

Mask Artist Painter – Boruca, Costa Rica

“In times of pandemic I saw the need to reinvent my work, and this brought a positive change.  I am now focusing on themes more immersed in the Borucan culture and I want to include the spirituality of the night, of the morning, of the sun all those elements are expressed in my pieces.”

As an accomplished and recognized Borucan artist, Melvin likes to challenge himself.  Over the past few years, he has transitioned to painting on canvas and creating wall murals across Costa Rica.  He feels a special affinity for the jaguar, which is often a central character in his art.  Melvin learned the art of traditional mask making at an early age from his late father, Don Ismael Gonzales, who is recognized as the founder of the modern mask movement.  Melvin inherited from his father a deep love for his culture and feels a responsibility to keep his cultural heritage alive.

blank

“For this piece I was inspired by the night, the stars, and how important darkness is.  The jaguar uses and totally dominates that darkness to survive, and represents that part of life, of nature.  Since ancient times the jaguar has been closely linked to the Boruca people and was considered a deity.  Recently, we have found paw prints and for our Boruca culture it is very important that we continue to share our territory with him.”

blank

Neftali Rojas Morales

Mask Artist Painter – Boruca, Costa Rica

“Unlike others who started very young, I was older when I started to carve.  My first mask turned out so pretty that I fell in love with mask making.  Soon after that, I started painting them and creating my own designs.”

Neftali loved to paint as a child.  As the oldest of his siblings, however, he was forced to leave school early to work on his father’s farm.  He began studying mask making in 1998 and is now an accomplished painter.  He enjoys painting his pieces with a natural and muted palette, and his lifelike details are astonishing.  Through his masks, he hopes more people will learn about his village, culture, and traditions.

blank

Rosa Rojas Morales

Mask Artist Painter – Boruca, Costa Rica

“I started painting masks in 2014 and I am inspired by nature.  I especially like to paint the butterflies and flowers I see around my home.  I also enjoy painting at my dad’s finca, or ranch, up in the cloud forest where it is very quiet and peaceful.”

Rosa is one of the few female mask artists in Boruca, and she learned from her artist brothers.  She now enjoys exchanging ideas and inspiration with Luis Miguel, Francisco, and Manuel.  In 2019, thanks to their mask work, Rosa and her partner Ovidio fulfilled their dream of opening a restaurant in Boruca called Soda Breson, which means “Tasty” in Brunca, the Borucan language.  Today, Rosa divides her time between her successful business and her art.

blank

Rudy Gómez Morales

Mask Artist Carver – Boruca, Costa Rica

“I started sanding masks when I was 11 years old.  Next, I wanted to carve them, and so I learned little by little by watching my brother and dad.  When I was 15 years old, I was making masks on my own and soon after, people started admiring my work!  Now I feel I just need to learn how to paint!”

Rudy is one of the youngest fine-carving artists.  He eagerly learns new carving techniques.  Most often, another artist will bring him a balsa wood log with a design drawn for him to carve.  In return the artist will paint one of Rudy’s masks.  These collaborations have led to new friendships.  Participating in exhibitions at Selby Gardens has allowed Rudy to fund his studies.  In 2019 he graduated with an accounting degree and is now focused on finishing a second degree in business management.

blank

Sugey Jiménez Acosta

Mask Artist Painter – Boruca, Costa Rica

“Every day, I learn something new from Marcos as I watch him at work.  Then, I practice with new ideas and keep developing a style of my own.“

Sugey began playing with paintbrushes at a young age, inspired by her godmother.  After marrying Marcos in 2005, she quickly learned new techniques and fell in love with mask painting.  Orchids are her specialty, and she enjoys replicating different varieties with intricate details.  She also enjoys painting miniature masks and designing her own jewelry line.  She and her husband currently work side by side and are often found teaching mask painting workshops to tourists.

Resize Fonts
Contrast