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He ran out of money in New Orleans. So he stayed. And became great.

this is a discussion within the Everything Else Community Forum; The Times-Picayune is marking the tricentennial of New Orleans with its ongoing 300 for 300 project, running through 2018 and highlighting 300 people who have made New Orleans New Orleans, featuring original artwork commissioned by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune with ...

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Old 05-17-2018, 05:28 AM   #1
 
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He ran out of money in New Orleans. So he stayed. And became great.

The Times-Picayune is marking the tricentennial of New Orleans with its ongoing 300 for 300 project, running through 2018 and highlighting 300 people who have made New Orleans New Orleans, featuring original artwork commissioned by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune with Where Y'Art gallery. Today: artist Enrique Alferez.



The icon: Enrique Alferez.

The legacy: As a boy, Enrique Alferez was a rebel -- literally, serving alongside forces loyal to Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution. Even after the war, and after he immigrated to the United States, that rebellious streak would remain a part of him, evident in some of the many artworks the sculptor created in his adopted hometown of New Orleans. While the frequent use of nudity in his creations riled what he called "puritanical" locals critics in the 1940s and 1950s, the colorful, and at times impish, Alferez built a reputation as one of the city's great 20th century artists. A student of the Art Deco style, his sculptures can be found -- and are treasured -- in cities around the world. Nowhere, however, are they more concentrated than in New Orleans.

The artist: Alexandra Kilburn.

The quote: "He had a penchant for pulling the leg of officialdom. He just loved all that (notoriety); he really loved it. ... He was sort of an enfant terrible." -- Luba Glade, a longtime friend of Enrique Alferez

Alferez was born on May 4, 1901, in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. He was raised in a family of six children.
Alferez was exposed to art early. His father, who was also a sculptor, made his living by crafting plaster saints and other religious icons.
At age 12, the young Alferez became a revolutionary when, after breaking a glass tube at school, he ran away from home because he didn't want his family to pay for it. At the time, Mexico was in the middle of a revolution and the young Alferez and a friend fell into the hands of rebels. "They thought we were federal spies, and some of them wanted to shoot us," Alferez would later remember. "But the leader gave us a choice: Either join up with them or be shot. We joined up! So I became a revolutionary."
Because he had a knack for drawing, he was sent into enemy territory to make maps.
His life as a revolutionary lasted 10 years, after which he decided he had enough and deserted, fleeing across the border into Texas in 1923.
In El Paso, he found work as a janitor at a framing shop in El Paso. He was later hired to retouch photos as a photography assistant.
Alferez found his life's calling when he attended a lecture in El Paso by sculptor Lorado Taft, who encouraged the budding artist to visit him at the Art Institute of Chicago if he ever found himself in the Windy City.
A year later, Alferez enrolled at the Art Institute, leaving him with only $15 to his name. He joined a group of students who lived and worked at Taft's on-campus studio and remained at the Institute for three years, where he was introduced to the Art Deco style.
When he wasn't creating art in Chicago, he was earning $5 a day to climb to the roof of the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue to hang the American flag.
In 1929, he headed back to Mexico but ran out of money in New Orleans. He decided to stick around, creating artwork on commission, teaching at the Arts and Crafts Club and directing the city's sculpture program for the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.

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