RIP Luiz Jimenez :: Sculpture entitled The Sodbuster

Sometime in the late 80's, Luis Jimenez loaned his sculpture entitled The Sodbuster to the El Paso Natural Gas Company for display. While I did not see it on display (photo by my boss at the time, James Dean) I found a wonderful 8x10 print in the files at the company when I worked in the PR department a decade later.

Sadly, Luiz Jimenez died yesterday and the world has lost an incredibly gifted and innovative artist whose sense of fun and irony permeated all his works, including his most controversial, "End of the Trail (with electric sunset)."

Article Launched: 06/14/2006 12:00:00 AM MDT

Accident kills creator of plaza's 'Lagartos'
By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times
El Paso Times
Luis Jimenez, the El Paso native whose fiberglass sculptures made him an internationally prominent artist, was killed Tuesday morning in a freak accident in his art studio in Hondo, N.M., authorities said.

Jimenez, 65, was the most famous artist to come out of El Paso, with his work recognized from barrios to President Bush's ranch home near Crawford, Texas.

Around 11:50 a.m. Tuesday, Jimenez and two of his employees were moving a large statue piece with a hoist when the piece got loose, struck Jimenez and pinned him to a steel beam at Jimenez Studios, Lincoln County Sheriff R.E. "Rick" Virden said in a news release.

Jimenez received a severe leg injury and died at Lincoln County Medical Center in nearby Ruidoso.

The death of Jimenez created a shock as it spread by word of mouth through the arts community in El Paso, where Jimenez's "Vaquero" and "Plaza de Los Lagartos" sculptures have become civic landmarks.

Jimenez was a major figure in Chicano art and a pioneer in public art. His vibrant fiberglass sculptures are found in parks from Albuquerque to Fargo, N.D., home of "The Sodbuster" statue.

Last week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reported he was working on a Cleveland Firefighters Memorial that was to be ready by the fall. The statue was supposed to be finished by the end of 2004, but the date was pushed back in part because Jimenez had suffered two heart attacks.

"He was one of the most original artists on the planet," said Becky Duvall Reese, the former director of the El Paso Museum of Art. Jimenez's "Vaquero" -- a 20-foot-tall statue of a Mexican cowboy on a bucking horse -- stands in front of the museum.

Jimenez's work often reflected his border and Southwestern roots. He often said he was inspired by his sign-maker father, a Mexican immigrant.

"I have a way of looking at the world that is somewhat unique, that is not maybe totally mainstream," Jimenez said in a 1995 interview with the El Paso Times. "I would hope that I've helped people have insights into the world we are living in."

Art gallery owner Adair Margo said Jimenez will live on in his work, including the "Texas Waltz" lithograph purchased by first lady Laura Bush that is now at the Bush ranch home.

"I think Luis shared this border region with the world. Those images will continue to live on," Margo said. "You look at the images he left us, you realize he was a voice that mattered, that gave form to this region and communicated it with people. He was a man of just incredible talent, but he also had great generosity of spirit."

Daniel Borunda may be reached at dborunda@elpasotimes.com; 546-6102.

El Paso Times reporter Adriana M. Chávez contributed to this report.

Photo by James Dean

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