By Molly Eppard – Town of Vail, Art in Public Places Coordinator, via Art Vail Valley Gallery Guide, Winter 2016
Remembering Jesús Moroles and his work
The legacy of world-renowned sculptor Jesús Moroles lives on in Vail following his untimely death in a car accident earlier this year. Moroles’ “Granite Landscape” in Vail’s Ford Park has become a favorite in the town’s public art collection. The installation has served as an intimate gathering place for Bravo! Pre-concert talks, Vail Performing Arts Academy performances, yoga classes and even weddings. The public has embraced and become stewards of the art, which was something dear to the artist.
The son of Mexican immigrants, Moroles was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1950. He was enrolled in art classes as a young boy and received his first commissions by the time he was 13 years old. After enlisting in the U.S. Air Force for four years of service, Moroles graduated from North Texas State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1978. He apprenticed for a year with the sculptor Luis Jimenez and the following year he spent working in Carrara, Italy. In 1983, Moroles opened his studio in Rockport, Texas. The massive working studio encompassed three city blocks of this Gulf Coast town and was a family-run operation.
Moroles’ achievement and recognition in the arts is immense. He continued to garner major recognition for his work since “Granite Landscape” was originally acquired by the Town of Vail in 1998 for placement at the top of Bridge Street. Most notably in 2008, he was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts to be a recipient of the National Medal of Arts Award, which was presented to him by the President of the United States. This is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States Government. In 2011, he was the recipient of the Texas State Visual Artist 3D of the Year.
His work is included in many major private, corporate, public and museum collections throughout the world. More than 300 of his works have been celebrated in museum and gallery exhibitions worldwide, and 2,000 are in collections throughout Asia, Europe, Mexico, North America, and the Middle East. Moroles recently completed his largest granite plaza to date in China at the Shanghai Zizhu Science-based Industrial Park.
Moroles created a sense of atmosphere and space with “Granite Landscape.” One can wander through the installation and peer through the pillars to the Gore Creek or, likewise, sit upon a bench and gaze at the majestic Gore range.
“I really like the new placement of the granite plaza, the setting in nature, river and mountains is a perfect surrounding. It captures a feeling that the “Granite Landscape” has always belonged there,” explained Moroles when the sculpture was relocated in 2011.
The three free-standing sculptures are titled “Strata,” “The Fang” and “Gore Creek.” The tallest sculptural element standing at more than eleven feet tall, “Strata” represents the valley’s geological rock formations in its roughly hewn, horizontally patterned texture and uppermost section. “The Fang,” an East Vail winter ice climbing attraction and a popular summer waterfall, is represented in the contrasting, highly polished arc versus the natural, rocky texture on the sculpture’s opposite side. An interactive, wedge shaped bench portraying a fish is symbolic of the Gore Creek to which “Granite Landscape” is now adjacent.
Combining both the polished and coarse textures of granite, the beauty of this robust material is revealed. Showing the pristine elegance as represented in the “Gore Creek’s” highly-polished finish or the rugged permanence in the more rough textures, there is a direct hands-on approach by Moroles. With state-of-the-art tools, and his bare hands, Moroles has the ability to transform this hardest natural stone. Every mark is thoughtful and intentional.
“My work is a discussion of how man exists in nature and touches nature and uses nature. Each of my pieces has about 50 percent of its surfaces untouched and raw – those are parts of the stone that were torn. The rest of the work is smoothed and polished. The effect, which I want people to not only look at but touch, is a harmonious coexistence of the two,” Moroles says.
“Jesús was a great friend and amazing artist,” adds local artist Jim Cotter, owner of J. Cotter Studio. “He often told me about his family and how important they where [sic] to him. He also would talk about the sacred places he loved and how they influenced his art. We always joked and tried to enjoy each and every moment in life. Jesús was never at a loss for words or ideas and truly loved every piece of art he made. I will forever miss my friend.”
Cotter and Moroles first met through a mutual friend in the early 1980s in Santa Fe while Cotter was exhibiting his own work. It was not long after that he started to represent Moroles in his Vail Valley galleries.
Moroles’ “Granite Landscape” is an exemplary installation in the town’s public art collection and will continue to be enjoyed by many for years to come. Not only a gathering place, but its connection and harmony with the earth and its natural surroundings create a sanctuary where his memory will continue to flourish. The Town of Vail is honored to have worked with such a talented artist and patient gentleman with the acquisition and re-installation of “Granite Landscape” in Ford Park.