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Cowboy turned Sculptor Jorge de la Peña

by Beverly Imman Field

The deafening pandemonium leaves the earth trembling beneath pounding hoofs as the stampede charges forward, a river of passionate freedom. Wild, powerful stallions toss their heads in defiant independence, rearing against the sky, their energy leaves spectators breathless in the wake of unconfined liberty. Jalisco sculptor Jorge de la Peña captures the force of that freedom in his larger than life bronze sculptures of mounted vaqueros, charging bulls and stampeding stallions.
Situated in the center of one of Guadalajara, Jalisco's busiest metropolitan intersections as a monument to independence and absolution, is his sculpture The Stampede. The piece, created just over fifteen years ago, was relocated to it's current position last January 1998 at the request of city officials.
"I feel that I'm giving something anew to my city," states De La Peña during a recent interview with this dynamic forty-three year old artist. "The Stampede was originally created to be seen in a space giving it perspective. I feel the piece is truly free now." As one drives into any of the five entry points to the Niños Héroes and López Mateos intersection, the drama of his fourteen life sized horses rampaging through city traffic is an uplifting sight.
"The idea of The Stampede," explains De La Peña, "is the use of fourteen horses to represent Liberty and Strength. Normally Liberty is represented as a human figure, but here it isn't human in form at all. Instead, I have chosen something very beautiful... the horse."
De La Peña's inspiration comes from the vigorous forces of nature associated with life on a working hacienda. Stimulated by the graceful intensity of the bullfights and round-ups of his youth, he began sketching scenes of daily chores and work on the hacienda at the age of fourteen. Sculpturing comes naturally to the artist, as he instinctively understands the form and feel of the horse and bull from personal experience.
"Fighting bulls on horseback is like having the same potency as the bull, you feel you are confronting it with the same amount of power." The virility and movement in his art illustrates the passion of the cowboy's life, the intense struggle between man and nature.
"For me, the bullfight is an art. Like a singer, a sculptor or a painter, the bullfighter has something he wants to express to the multitudes. It is an expression of his internal spirit-- but what a difficult way to communicate it, because the artist is playing with his own life."
"With a superficial artist, there is no internal mysticism, no congruency between what he feels, thinks and does. All my sculptures have an intense animation, it is an element that is practically indispensable in my art and form of expression. Another thing I try to do is give a positive message through my work, so that when people see the piece they feel bolstered. I love what I do. If the majority of people could do what they really enjoy, the world would be a much better place."
De La Peña, considered by some to be Mexico's up-and-coming Remington, operates his own workshop and foundry in Guadalajara where he is currently working on a commissioned sculpture for one of the largest churches in the metropolitan area. Entering the international art scene in 1990 with a life sized bronze depicting three frolicking horses, this talented sculptor hasn't looked back since. The piece, located in a public park in Kyoto, Japan, has his signature sense of force and movement. Another large-scale work can be viewed in the city of Aguascalientes, outside the arena where the famous bullfighting festivals are held each year. It illustrates a vaquero chasing a herd of bulls crashing through the town's square.
Jorge De La Peña's life-sized sculptures have the poetic potency of a cowboy's soul-- brawny, willful and disciplined.