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Heart of Louisiana: Enrique Alferez

Published: Jan. 9, 2022 at 7:25 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WAFB) - Enrique Alferez filled the streets, parks, and public buildings of New Orleans with his unique art for much of the 20th century.

If you spend any time in New Orleans, you may be able to spot his artwork in football stadiums, fences, street corners, and City Park.

“Enrique Alferez was a preeminent Mexican sculptor who truly shaped visual landscape of New Orleans,” said Katie Bowler Young.

As a young boy, Alferez traveled with Poncho Villa’s army in Mexico. Then, he came to the United States and studied art in Chicago and then made New Orleans his home. Young has just written a biography of Alferez with a historic New Orleans collection. She discovered his sculptures while a student at UNO, when she would spend time reading at the Fountain of the Four Winds at Lakefront Airport.

“I would just read and look at those mythical figures that are each about nine feet tall and, little by little, I wondered who had created them. And I became humbled as I learned about the difficult journey that he traveled on to pursue an art he loved,” explained Young.

You can see a collection of art by Alferez in the botanical garden at City Park.

“When I look at Enrique Alferez’s art, what I see is an artist who was very focused on the human figure on the female figure. In particular, I think that he was a studier of the human condition and sought to be able to understand the visual representation of emotion in a human face,” added Young.

Alferez’s art has been part of the New Orleans community, literally for generations, I guess, 80, 80-plus years, probably.

What do you see as his impact on this community with his art?

“He has captured the character of the city in some of his art. And then, he has also played a part in shaping its visual identity,” said Young.

A large sculpture of the biblical character, David, stands alongside a lute player in the 900 block of Poydras Street.

“He saw in David, a strength that I think really is a part of the kind of heart and soul of Enrique Alferez,” noted Young.

And a few blocks away stands the statue of Molly Marine, the first monument to women in the military in the US.

“And he created molds so that the figure could be reproduced for military bases at Paris Island and Quantico, where they are installed and can be seen today,” added Young.

The sculptures show movement, emotion, and strength.

“One of the things that he said that I find, um, I find very amusing is that he said that gravity is the enemy of the sculptor. Always wanting to take down that, which a sculptor wants to keep up,” said Young.

The art of Enrique Alferez continues to withstand gravity and harsh weather as it adds an element of strength and grace to the city of New Orleans.

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