Coming Face to Face with your Past Self

Well, as I come to the end of my first week of blogging, I’ve found this outlet quite fun. Since today is Good Friday, I will post two images. The first image I have here is a photo of the great Cuban Sculptor, Tony Lopez, taken by me a few years back.

Tony has been a part of my life as far back as my memory can remember. One of my parents’ closest friends, he was one of the folks who was with us every Sunday at El Farito as I posted in my previous essay. (And he was the best hitter in the softball games too.) He was there at all my birthday parties, and even to this day, he has always been a fixture at either my Thanksgiving Table or Noche Buena table.

He’s also been a fixture here in Miami. His studio, on NW 36th Street and NW 2nd Avenue, is the only thing that has remained the same in that neighborhood since the late 1950’s. The neighborhood has undergone many changes in the past 45 plus years, but his studio remains the same. You’ll still find him there every day working on his art. If you’ve been anywhere around Miami, you’ve surely seen his work, to wit:. his busts of Cuban heroes like Jose Marti are located throughout the city, his pieta in St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach, his statue of Claude Pepper on Bayfront Park, and most recently his roosters in Little Havana.

Tony is an encyclopedia of jokes. Anytime you would invite him to dinner or whether at the Noche Buena table, he will grace you with a plethora of chistes. Not only are his jokes funny, but his delivery is par none.

Back when I was seven years old, Tony made a bust of yours truly. He considers it one of his best works and it sits in his studio. In essence, he has immortalized my youth in a work of art. Thus, in this image, I come face to face with myself as I was at age seven. I remember posing for him. It was 1972. Much has changed in 34 years. We’ve gotten older. Tony has gotten more gray, but he’s just as funny as he was back then. But my essence as an innocent seven year old is preserved for the ages in this bust.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting the greatest museums in the world and seeing the greatest works of art from the masters of the ages. But one particular day, in the summer of 1985, while visiting an impressionist exhibit in Rome on loan from the Hermitage, I came upon an 1878 Renoir painting of a young woman, Actress Jeanne Samary http://www.artdreamguide.com/adg/_arti/_r/_renoi/img/_jpg/552.jpg

I was transfixed on this portrait of this gorgeous woman painted in the 19th Century. I literally stood there for a long time just admiring both the painting and this woman of an earlier age. I pondered if this woman, long since dead, would ever have imagined that more than 100 years later, people would be admiring her image in a museum, and particularly, a young twenty year old. I thought to myself, "man, I would have loved to have met this woman." Of course, I'm sure the men of her day wanted to meet her as well.

I then noted the irony that while as human beings, our lives were simply short-lived in the scheme of things, (in the circle of life), works of art live forever. While photographs capture a moment in time, (usually less than a second), paintings capture several moments in time in the minds of the painter; an abstract moment in time. Likewise, a sculpture is the end results of many moments in time coming together to create the final three dimensional image. I remember posing for Tony for several Saturdays as he molded pieces of clay into what would ultimately become a bust of my young self.

Who knows, perhaps one day, a century from now, someone visiting a museum or gallery viewing the works of Tony Lopez may come across the bust of a young boy from an earlier age, "the 1970’s." Perhaps this person looking at the bust may say, “so that’s what my great great-grandfather looked like as a young child.” Wishful thinking, perhaps?

BTW: Tony's Website is http://www.tonylopezstudio.com/