Finding Oswaldo Guayasamin


By Ron Howard

Oswaldo Guayasamín (July 6, 1919 – March 10, 1999) was an Ecuadorian master painter and sculptor born of an indigenous Quechua Indian father and mestizo (mixed race) mother. Because of his mixed racial heritage, he experienced racism and discrimination on a personal basis, which became a major theme in his artwork. A political activist and humanitarian, he is now generally recognized to be one of the greatest artists of Latin America, if not the world, of the 20th century.

On my first travel experience in Latin America, I discovered in Ecuador a world class, master artist whom I had never known before. It started when I arrived at the modern, downtown hotel NUHOUSE in the capital city of Quito, where I was booked to stay several nights. On entering the lobby my eyes were drawn to the paintings which adorned the walls, sculptures standing in selected spaces, and even gift items showcased under glass with key. All of the same artist.

My attraction to the art was immediate and compelled me to inquire at the front desk, “whose work is this on display”?

That is when I first heard the name: "Oswaldo Guayasamin.”

Even more, I was told that the deceased Ecuadorean artist was born in Quito and has an estate on the outskirts of town, next to which he had designed and constructed La Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Humanity), his architectural gallery to house many of his epic artworks. My subsequent visit to Guayasamin’s La Capilla del Hombre was profoundly moving, and it inspired a gallery of photos, some of which are included below, along with these words:

Overlooking the Pichinchas Mountains
La Capilla del Hombre
Guayasamin’s lasting legacy to Quito
his beloved native land
this masterful tribute to humanity
to the suffering, struggles, achievements
to the people of Latin America and the world
forcefully presented through paintings, sculpture and architecture
all of which convey his artistic genius and a spirit
which remains alive and well
as it today stirs and inspires my soul
long after his life on this earth has ended.