"A colleague… walked up to the canvas, looked carefully at the fly, and waved the catalogue at it to scare it away. Oh, what a surprise when he discovered it was a part of my painting!"
"I'm Juan León Dextre. I was born in Ancash on August 9, 1948. My father died when I was eight years old and I went to Lima to live with my brothers who were going to school there. They decided to bring me to the capital so that I could seek a better life.
From the time I was a boy, I'd contemplate a swallow after a soft rain and would look for a way to represent it. My father was also a painter and I admired the paintings he had stored in his workshop. This was a great motivation for me. I'd look at them for hours, and I kept all this inside me. When I went to school, I always knew that this was what I wanted to do – draw and paint.
"When I was 16 years old and in the last year of middle school, I signed up for a one year correspondence course in drawing. Then I took other classes, and I eventually applied to the Escuela Nacional Superior Autónoma de Bellas Artes del Perú. I was admitted in first place on merit.
"Today I practice my art with an excellent hand – landscapes, still lifes and Andean characters, depicted with such realism that the viewer can hardly tell the difference between the real and the pictorial.
"I've worked as an artist since 1968 and I'd describe my work as colorful, powerful, happy and very original. I find my inspiration in nature, in the beauty, joy and color of our Peruvian culture, and the need to express myself visually.
"I've shown my paintings in more than 300 collective exhibits here in Peru and in other countries, including Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, the U.S., Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Chile.
"One afternoon in an art gallery, I was preparing for a solo exhibition. One of the paintings depicted fruit, very realistic, and in the background, a fly with its transparent wings projecting a tenuous shadow on the canvas. A colleague walked by with the catalogue for my show and I told him, 'Camacho, get that fly out of here, please, before it soils my painting.' Camacho walked up to the canvas, looked carefully at the fly, and waved the catalogue at it to scare it away. Oh, what a surprise when he discovered it was a part of my painting!
"I have another story about this same friend. He told me that one day his cat was in the living room with the doors and windows shut. But it saw a painting of mine on the wall that depicted a sunny highland landscape. The cat thought it was a window and tried to jump through it and, obviously, it hit the wall. I told my friend, 'Camacho, I've fooled both you and your cat with my paintings.'
"My greatest challenge in life has been to get ahead by myself, since I lost my father when I was quite young. I was able to become an associate professor at the Escuela de Bellas Artes del Perú and a tenured professor at the U.N.M.S.M. And I was able to give my own children a better education than I had. I am so proud of them."