We must create our own heroes to make us feel good about ourselves. Artists can provide these images.
Luis A. Jimenez, Jr., known for his large and sleek sculptures, creates works that are studies and celebrations of cultures and legends from both Mexico and the United States. His work explores how political and social events, both historic and present-day, affect everyday people. He often attempts to rethink the “American dream” into Hispanic terms. His sculptures poke fun at American symbols and at the same time they celebrate the strength of the American character.
Jimenez tends to focuses on the myths of the southwest. He uses exaggerated stereotypes in an attempt to parody traditional views of that region. He also uses “high kitsch colors” in order to make his statement even bolder. His simple compositions transform the common man or woman into heroic figures. Strong elements of sexuality are evident in his work, and both men and women are represented with a strong sense of self-assurance and confidence.
Sodbuster is arguably the most well known sculpture in the Fargo/Moorhead area. In 1978, the Fargo Parking Authority applied for and received a National Endowment for the Arts matching grant of $20,000 to help finance a major sculptural piece to be located in downtown Fargo. Luis A. Jimenez, Jr. was the artist chosen by a joint committee of NEA representatives and the Fargo Parking Authority. After extensive research of the region and several preliminary proposals, Jimenez produced Sodbuster. For over 20 years it was located outside on Main Avenue and Broadway. In 1991 the City of Fargo donated the sculpture to Plains Art Museum, as it was decided that the museum was better able to oversee the ongoing care of the sculpture. Sodbuster deteriorated severely after 21 years of braving the North Dakota elements, so in 2002, the sculpture was placed in storage until funding can be raised to repair it.
Sodbuster was created as an homage to the farmers and prairie workers of the Great Plains. In the sculpture, two greatly straining oxen wearing a yoke are dragging a heavy plow forward, with a muscular farmer behind guiding them through the sod. The two, lavender-toned oxen appear as one mass, with underlying tall, green grass adjoined to their bellies. Their bodies are highly textured with exaggerated muscles, bulging veins, bones, and neck hair; displaying trimmed/squared off black horns and gold nose rings. The farmer is an old, white-bearded man wearing a red shirt and jean overalls. He is bent over an old, wooden handle and wheeled plow, with a large swath of sod being plowed through. The two pieces are displayed on a large cement base. With the help of the bright fiberglass and the appearance of enormous strength, the farmer is transformed into a symbol of heroism and Midwestern fortitude. Sodbuster has become a beloved symbol for those in the Fargo/Moorhead region.
My main concern is creating an American art using symbols and icons. I’m making high art out of low art material. I feel I am a traditional artist working with images and materials that are of my time.
Luis A. Jimenez, Jr. is best known for bold and vibrant sculptures, because they are created from epoxy and fiberglass in daring colors, often with neon and electric lighting.
Jimenez was born in El Paso, Texas, on July 30, 1940. Jimenez started to show an interest in the art field at a very young age. His father was a signmaker who worked with neon and large-scale materials. Through his father’s business, Jimenez learned that certain symbols and colors attract people and many associations can be made with those symbols.
Choosing to go to school rather than taking over the family business, Jimenez attended the University of Texas from 1959-1964 where he studied art and architecture. From 1964 to 1966, Jimenez attended the Ciudad Universitaria in Mexico. While in Mexico, he delved into his cultural heritage by painting Mexican murals. He then went to New York where he exhibited work and assisted sculptor Seymour Lipton. After living in New York for a time, Jimenez realized the necessity of getting back to his roots and returned home to the southwest. He currently resides in Hondo, New Mexico.
Throughout his career, Jimenez has been commissioned to do public art for several cities including Fargo, Albuquerque, Buffalo, Sacramento, and Oklahoma City.
Jimenez has received over 12 different awards and fellowships during his career as an artist, including the National Council of Art Administration’s Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Field of Art, La Napoule Art Foundation Residency Fellowship in La Napoule, France, the Skowhegan Sculpture Award.
His work has been shown at museums throughout the United States, and his work is part of the permanent collections of the Chicago Art Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Museum of American Art and the National Collection of Fine Arts in Washington D.C., the Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico, Plains Art Museum in Fargo, the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks, and many more throughout the southwest and Midwest.
Luis Jimenez, Sodbuster, 1980-81, molded fiberglass, epoxy resin, acrylic urethane paint, 60 x 257 x 47″ © 2012 Estate of Luis A. Jimenez, Jr. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York