Mixing fantasy and reality, Cuenca artist Kleber Moscoso records the lives of his rural heritage
The argentine canvas tacked to the sky was hung nearly a week ago; whoever is in charge must have issued a recall of the color blue and put this up instead. It seemed a fitting time for the artist, Kleber Moscoso, to abandon his art studio for a spell and chat with me at Casa Azul.
Moscoso recently mounted a successful exhibition of his latest work and is taking some well-deserved time off to recharge his considerable creative energy. He agreed to talk with me about his history of blurring the lines between fantasy and reality.
He began our interview by remarking on the weather.
“I haven’t been painting much lately due to the dreary clouds. Instead, I am doing a lot of pen and ink drawings and working with copper. I need color to compliment my thinking, it provides the heightened awareness of life that is essential to my work, so I must wait for the skies to clear before I can return to my own pallet of colors.”
Kleber Moscoso was born in the rural village of San Fernando, an hour south of Cuenca. It was founded in 1550. The canton has a population of 3,961, of which 3,256 work the land. The altitude is 2,600 meters (8,500 ft.) above sea level. The coldest months are from January to March, with winter frosts being frequent.
He was born into a farming family whose roots connect deep branches of aunts and uncles, cousins, and family friendships that span generations. When Kleber was five years old, he surprised his mother by painting a mural in the living room of their modest home depicting a recent earthquake as an evil beast tearing open the floor of the world. His relatives were so impressed with his artwork they entered a photograph of his mural in a regional art contest; he won first prize. This early recognition encouraged him to pursue his passions, and, with his parent’s consent, he embarked on a journey that defines his life.
He chose to live the life of an artist.
Moscoso etched a name for himself in the art community by focusing on painting portraits of the people who live in his village and the animals they raise and care for. When he moved to Cuenca, he built on his “affection for the spiritual presence that radiates from the human form” by drawing sketches of people on the street who caught his attention while performing their daily tasks of city living. He loved the creative energy Cuenca provides and the astonishing array of jubilant artists hanging their work in the galleries and scratching meaningful graffiti on the walls of shops and offices throughout the city. After a while, he began accepting commissions from friends and collectors who were attracted to the magical realism he witnesses and recorded on canvas. They were drawn to Moscoso’s heightened awareness of mystery, his interpretation of the fantastic with the mundane, the ordinary with the extraordinary, dream life with waking life, and the interplay of reality and unreality.
Moscoso’s world is one where animals are not just equal to humans but active partners working in tandem to achieve a place in this world — and the next. He understands that his job is to record the autobiography of their lives as reflected in the wrinkles of time and seasons. He said that he, too, is a journalist; the only distinction is that he uses paint and stretched canvas.
When I asked if the hardships caused by the pandemic and resulting economic difficulties interrupted his work, he replied, “Oh, no! It was just the opposite. My patrons intuitively knew that they needed art in their lives more than ever. They need to have examples of magic in their homes. It is an integral part of their surroundings. My paintings remind them where their dreams are housed: in their animals, in those they love, and in their own place in the world.”
He said we all need totems that identify the past and provide a guidepost to the future.
Surprisingly, Moscoso has never painted a portrait of a North American. Although he is nearly fluent in English, he has little interaction with expats because most of his time is spent in the company of close friends and family.
“I enjoy motorcycling in the Cajas and doing a little fishing,” he said, “But my life is dedicated to my work, recording the lives of those who surround me: my family, friends, and the animals that animate our lives. I learn from them what I can and try to capture on canvas the lessons they pass on to me.”
As we chatted, I became aware of how animal-like Kleber is, graceful, at ease, and always keenly alert to the changing environment around him. There was never a single face or a gust of wind that failed to attract his attention and consideration.
Moscoso is years younger than he looks, his face is drawn with coal mined from veins laced with deep shadows dredged since childhood. His life, as is true for most Ecuadorians, was never pampered; he was born into a world of struggle, coaxing food from the land by day and hauling the brutality of existence into his home at night, transforming it into fine art.
Occasionally, Moscoso would break into a sunny smile, but that is not his character. He is a quiet, reflective, astute man, consumed with recording his vision of the world: the realization that magic propels the ever-evolving mingling of textures that illustrates our understanding of life.
The hours I spent talking with Kleber will long be remembered as time well spent in the company of a great artist. His quiet demeanor seemed to return time to its rightful speed, allowing the surrounding animals — including me — a moment of tranquility, an opportunity to look more closely and more kindly on all who depend on the splendor of magic.
Kleber Moscoso can be reached through Facebook and Instagram. You can also contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org