Life is a bowl of cherries for fruit-loving painte


Life is sweet for artist Ricardo Carbajal-Moss. At the point in life where most people start winding down, the creator of “The Cherry Paintings” has a new career, a new love and a new home.

For 14 years, Carbajal-Moss lived in La Jolla, earning a living and supporting his art by teaching English. A year ago, he moved to Wil, Switzerland. He has a new wife he adores and he is, finally, a full-time painter.

“The only thing that can make a man move that far is a woman,” he said.

Carbajal-Moss met Gabriela Schwyzer when she took English lessons from him. She attended one of his shows and purchased a painting for herself before returning to Europe.

It was shipped to her but never received, so the artist copied the original and painted a second - a big strawberry - which also failed to reach her in Switzerland. Eventually, both packages were returned to Carbajal-Moss.

They corresponded via e-mail, and Schwyzer eventually returned to Southern California.

“By the time she got back to San Diego, we knew it was love,” Carbajal-Moss said.

His current residence in Wil is halfway around the world from Mexico City, where he grew up with two brothers, sons of an American mother. After finishing high school, Carbajal-Moss attended the University of the Americas. He said one of his professors, Toby Joysmith, is responsible for setting him on a path that led to where he is today.

When Joysmith asked the young student what his career aspirations were, Carbajal-Moss said he was aiming to complete his master’s degree in art and become a teacher.

Carbajal-Moss recalls Joysmith telling him that teaching is for those who cannot do, and said that Carbajal-Moss may possess whatever was missing in Joysmith’s own art.

“Don’t teach art. You’ll be empty at the end of the day,” Carbajal-Moss recalled Joysmith saying.

With that advice, Carbajal-Moss took what he knew of English and taught in Mexico, Los Angeles and eventually San Diego.

He achieved recognition as an artist and has held exhibitions in Mexico and the United States. Many private and corporate collections include his pieces. Locally, his work has been displayed at numerous shows and galleries, such as Simay Space Gallery and the La Jolla Art Association.

Cherries are one of the hallmarks of Carbajal-Moss’ style. His solo show currently being held at ArtHaus in San Francisco is called “The Cherry Paintings.” Composed on canvas and panel, he applied acrylic paint and metal leaf to depict cherries in surreal settings.

“I would say around three to four years ago, I was really into heavy black backgrounds and surrealistic images of nonsensical things,” he said. “What really appeals to me now is reality and realism.”

He experiments with three different aspects of the cherry theme: windows, paintings that picture gothic, European windows where clouds may come into the room, cherries lie on the ground and a crystal sphere reflects the image in reverse: table tops, a sort of still life with cherries falling onto the table, on the table or falling off of the table and landscapes, where the cherries live.

The artist said the organic characteristics of cherries enthrall him: the shape, the slick surface, the warm colors and the sweet and sour taste. Their symbolic history, representing everything from love and lust to passion and devotion, also inspires him, he said.

But Carbajal-Moss can also trace his fascination with cherries back to a summer he spent in Wisconsin.

The 21-year-old student had received a scholarship to study at Fish Creek School of Art and made the lengthy journey from Mexico City to Wisconsin by bus. The cabin he shared with another student sat in front of a cherry orchard.

That summer, the cherries were too expensive to pick, so they were left on the trees. They grew and ripened all summer, until they were so plump and lush and juicy that he could not wrap his index finger around one.

“It made a great impression on me,” Carbajal-Moss said.

After moving to Europe, he decided to pursue painting full-time. He’s done two local shows and has more in the works.

His American exhibit has been very successful. He and wife Gabriela attended the opening in San Francisco. It was an opportunity to meet collectors and make new acquaintances.

“The more things happen,” he said, “the more freedom I have to just be an artist.”

For information about Carbajal-Moss’ exhibition, “The Cherry Paintings” at ArtHaus in San Francisco, call the gallery at (415) 977-0223. The show runs through Oct. 28.