Heart of Louisiana: Enrique Alferez

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 time in New Orleans, you may be able to spot his artwork in football stadiums, fences, street corners, and the city park.

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

As a young boy, Alferez traveled with the army from Poncho Villa to Mexico. Then he came to the United States and studied art in Chicago, then made his home in New Orleans. Young has just written a biography of Alferez with a historical collection of New Orleans. She discovered her sculptures while a UN student, spending time reading at the Fountain of the Four Winds at Lakefront Airport.

“I read and watched these mythical figures who are each about nine feet tall and, little by little, I wondered who had created them. And I became humbled when I discovered the difficult journey he took to pursue an art he loved, ”Young explained.

You can see a collection of artwork from Alferez in the City Park Botanical Garden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a few blocks away stands the Molly Marine Statue, the first monument to women in the military in the United States.

“And he created molds so that the figure could be reproduced for the military bases on the Isle of Paris and Quantico, where they are set up and can be seen today,” Young added.

The sculptures show movement, emotion and strength.

“One of the things he said that I find, uh, I find very funny, is that he said gravity is the sculptor’s enemy. Always wanting to knock down what a sculptor wants to maintain, ”Young said.

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

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