A Visit with Miguel Illescas

If you’re an art-loving expat in Cuenca, you’ve probably visited Miguel Illescas’ gallery. Some, like me, are fortunate enough to own a piece of his art. My home features his lifelike iguana and Blue Footed Booby.

While near the Pumapungo Museum on Calle Larga, I decided to drop by Miguel’s gallery to see his latest creations. The first piece that caught my eye was a bold, life-sized horse sculpture made entirely from recycled propane gas cylinders. Amazingly, 90% of the artwork in Miguel’s gallery is crafted from recycled materials.

Curious about his use of recycled materials, I asked Miguel why this is important to him as an artist.

“When I started almost 35 years ago, there was no culture of recycling metals. All metals went to the fields or the river. I saw an opportunity to redeem metal through art. Artists see what others don’t—shapes, textures—and I wanted to transform these with cuts and fire to create silhouettes.

ECO NEWS - From Recycled Gas Cylinders to Captivating Art

Miguel added, “Cuenca has several waste material collection centers, which are like amusement parks to me. They inspire creative solutions for my projects. Even wood, like the good pine used in imported pallets, is valuable. It’s not just about getting cheap material; it’s about finding the right piece for my work. I invest time to make rough, discarded materials useful again.

My respect for nature influences my work with noble woods like cedar, pine, walnut, and laurel, which are becoming scarcer due to exploitation. I aim to give these materials new life as art, respecting their natural origins.”

ECO NEWS - From Recycled Gas Cylinders to Captivating Art

That vision hasn’t changed. Recycling remains vital to me. For instance, I refuse plastic bags at the supermarket, or use as few as possible. At home, we avoid throwing away plastic packaging and find alternative uses for it. Recycling and reusing are ingrained in my life,” Miguel explained.

Miguel’s dedication to recycling extends beyond his art. His commitment to sustainability is a core part of his lifestyle, demonstrating his deep respect for the environment. His innovative use of recycled materials not only showcases his artistic vision but also highlights an important ecological message.

Editor’s Note:

Cuenca Expats Magazine has been printed on recycled paper for the past year.

You can enjoy the works of this eco artist at the Miguel Illescas Gallery: Calle Larga 1-209, Cuenca Ecuador.