Sodbuster, San Isidro

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Artist - Luis Jimenez, Jr.
Born - 1940
Origin - America
Year Built - 1983

About the Artist:  Luis Jimenez grew up in a strong craft tradition with a grandfather who was a glassblower, another grandfather who was a carpenter, and a father who was a neon-sign maker. Jimenez apprenticed in the studio of his father but decided to leave the family business in favor of a degree in art. After studying art and architecture at the University of Texas between 1960-64, he taught high school in El Paso for the next two years. A car wreck in 1966 left Jimenez temporarily paralyzed; he resigned his teaching position shortly thereafter and moved to New York, where he became an assistant to the sculptor Seymour Lipton (1903-86). Jimenez adopted little from Lipton. Instead of working in bronze, Jimenez began working in fiberglass, a relatively cheaper material that implied new technologies particularly those used in automotive production. He also worked in figurative sculpture, the influence of Mexican artists such as Francisco Zu–iga, and drew upon a mixture of Southwestern and Mexican American subject matter. Low rider culture and Day of the Dead imagery mixed with his experiences in his father's shop, resulting in brilliantly-colored fiberglass sculptures of vaqueros and honky tonk patrons. Jimenez gained notoriety in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He accepted a professorship at the University of Houston in 1995.

Both Sodbuster, San Isidro, 1983, and Howl, 1986, are characteristic of Jimenez's work. Sodbuster was commissioned in 1979 by the city of Fargo, North Dakota. Although the sculpture is a response to the strong work ethic of Fargo's Lutheran community, it possesses a distinctly Southwestern flavor. Jimenez based the figure of the sodbuster on a local woodchopper who lived near the artist's home in Hondo, New Mexico. His acknowledgment of San Isidro (1070- 1130), the patron saint of farmers as well as the city of Madrid, Spain, also carries Southwestern associations. Likewise, the corn kernels and potsherds the sodbuster turns up in the soil relate more to the Hondo environment than that of Fargo. Still, Jimenez's valorization of the working class is not necessarily tied to place, and the installation of a second casting at Wichita State University acknowledges the universality of the artist's agrarian hero.

Howl began as a series of studies in 1976 after Jimenez saw a wounded coyote by the side of the road, struggling after her back had been broken by an automobile. The artist began to think of the animal as a symbol of determination, and as the studies progressed he combined the image of the coyote with that of the endangered Mexican wolf. The howling canine shows fortitude and resilience in the face of possible extinction. A fiberglass edition of Howl was created shortly after the casting of the bronze edition.