Portrait of a Cuenca artist

Mar 13, 2021 | 6 comments

I awoke to the insistence of tapping rain; tin drums of beads bouncing off the corrugated roof of a neighboring house. The dappled ceiling that had been erected days ago was still nailed to the sky; whoever is in charge must have issued a recall of the color blue and hammered up this dirty white replacement that resembles a lousy drywall job instead. The puddles that settled around the cobblestones are reflecting more color than the sky itself, and damp coffee drinkers are huddling together under awnings and over-sized umbrellas. They had given up on the sun days ago and settled for second best, a world glinting with watery light.

It was in this dreary landscape that I met with Kleber Moscoso, a talented artist, and extraordinary man.

Moscoso began our interview by remarking on the weather. “I haven’t been painting very much lately, instead I am doing a lot of pen and ink drawing and copper work. 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 clear skies before I return to my own pallet of colors.”

He was born in the village of San Fernando to a farming family. When he 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 neighbors were so impressed they entered a photograph of his mural in a regional art contest; he won first prize. This early award paid the entrance fee that allowed him access to pursue his passions; it was understood that he would 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 lived in his village and their animals.

When he moved to Cuenca he maintained his, “affection for the spiritual presence that radiates from the human form,” by accepting commissions to commemorate family members, beloved pets, and the magical realism of interconnecting lives.

His world is one where animals are equal to humans; his job is to record the autobiography of their faces. He said that he too is a journalist; the only distinction is that he uses a brush on canvas.

When asked if the pandemic has interrupted his work, he replied, “No, it is just the opposite. My patrons know they need art in their lives more than ever.” He said they need to have examples of magic gracing their surroundings to remind them where their dreams are housed: in their animals, in those they love, and in their own place in the world. He said they need totems that identify the past and provide a guidepost to the future.

Moscoso is always booked weeks in advance for his portraits and is regularly sought after for his landscapes and surrealism. He has successfully infused himself as vital to the community.

He has also never painted a portrait of a gringo. “Although I speak English; I have little interaction with expats. Most of my time is spent in the company of my close friends and family. I enjoy motorcycling in the Cajas and doing a little fishing, but my life is dedicated to my work, recording the lives of those who surround me, families, friends and animals. 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’s movement is, graceful and at ease, but always keenly alert of the changing environment around him. There was not a single face or a gust of wind that failed to catch his attention.

Moscoso is younger than he looks, his face is drawn with the coal of deep shadows earned 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 and hauling the brutality of existence home and transforming it into 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 always magic and ever-evolving textures of time.

Kleber Moscoso can be reached through Facebook and Instagram. You can also contact him via email: kmmoscoso@hotmail.com

Robert Bradley

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