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Arts & Culture

Selfportrait, 1963

OSWALDO GUAYASAMIN
Oswaldo Guayasamín was born in Quito on July 6, 1919. Son of a Native father and a Mestiza mother. Proud of his backgrounds, he creates trustingly a portrait of the human and social differences as criticism towards the reality that we live now a days in our society.

Oswaldo Guayasamín dedicated his entire life to painting, sculpting, collecting and fighting the injustices of life. His death on March 10th, a day of national strikes by indigenous (whom he spent his life supporting) and other sectors of society, was a great loss to Ecuador. He was one of our national treasures.

All of Guayasamín's paintings or sculptures evoke an immediate reaction. The strong colors, often disturbing images and forceful themes are meant to make the patron stop and take notice. Since early in his career, Guayasamin used art to fight against the cruelty of life, violence and injustice. "The Dead Children", which is a group of naked cadavers, was based on a brutal memory of when a childhood friend and others were gunned down by a random bullet.

From then on, Guayasamín would continue to use his paintings and sculptures to combat "cruelties and injustices of a society that discriminates against the poor, the indigenous, the afro-ecuadorian and the weak" explains the Guayasamín Foundation. He never belonged to a political party, but rallied in support of Castro and against the "abuses and aggressions of powerful and imperialistic countries". Sadly, the Ecuadorian Embassy had just convinced him to do an exhibit in the United States, when he died in Baltimore from a heart attack.

The Guayasamín Foundation was created to showcase his most important works. It includes a collection of pre-Colombian sculptures (3,000 pieces), colonial art (800 pieces) and his contemporary pieces (250 works). In the contemporary gallery his most forceful works from 1964 to 1984 are exhibited. The Nazi invasions, the concentration camps, Hiroshima, Vietnam, the "CIA sponsored invasions of Panama and the Dominican Republic", and the tortures and genocide by the dictators of Latin America are all expressed through his eyes and on his canvases.

Since 1996, Guayasamín had been working on a life long dream, the creation of "The Chapel of the Man" a 6,000 square foot mural that could rival the Cixtine Chapel. It was meant to be a history of "Our America" from pre-Colombian times to the present. This masterpiece was declared to be by UNESCO a "'cultural priority". Saddly, Guayasamín was not able to complete this dream.

Pablo Neruda described Guayasamín as "One of the last crusaders of imaginativeness. His heart is full of creatures, earthly pain, oppressed people, tortures and signs.He expresses his all and everything into painting. Fashions pass through his head like flimsy clouds. He has no fear of them". As Guayasamín rests in peace, he will be remembered for all this and more - for his political beliefs, his creativity, his courage and his dedication. While Ecuador is being torn apart, his art will unite us for one thing - to mourn his passing.

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