Celebrated stone sculptor John Suazo credits his late “Uncle Ralph” with inspiring his own career.
Ralph Suazo carved who and what he saw around his Taos Pueblo home, in different kinds of wood.
Using only a knife, he developed an abstract, pared-down, modern look that also maintained the essence of the subjects.
His pieces – like this one – have the simplified, powerfully still presence of some Asian art and the serene simplicity of R.C. Gorman, Amado Pena, and the famous Franco-Italian painter, Amadeo Modigliani.
The marks of the artist’s tools are visible in the wood, but the finish is smooth to the hand.
The wood is carved to suggest the fabric blanket that the figure is wrapped in: Notice how the grain of the wood was expertly manipulated to resemble the folds of the blanket and the texture of his shirt.
The face has a nose, cheekbones, and a mouth, but that is enough. In contrast to the body and blanket, the face is completely smooth.
Again, the swirly wood grain was used to suggest his hair, on one side of the head, especially, while his chongo, or bun, is carved with a nubbly surface.
With minimal, but telling, detail, the artist used the natural characteristics of the wood to portray this impressively tranquil, but eloquent figure.
The artist is long deceased, and this is definitely one of the last of his works that we might have.
Ralph Suazo left a beautiful, powerful legacy.