Renown Spanish sculptor coaxes the souls of his subjects into masterpieces

By Leslie J. López
LatinaLista

SPAIN — Jesús Méndez Lastrucci has his sculpting workshop in Seville close to Imaginero Castillo Lastrucci Street – the street named after his great-grandfather for whom more than one thousand religious images are attributed. Castillo Lastrucci is credited for “repopulating” many churches with his works after the Spanish Civil War, all over Seville and Andalucia.

It is a sculpting legacy carried on by his great-grandson.

Spanish sculptor Jesús Mendez puts the finishing touches on a bust with José de la Tomasa, a popular flamenco singer in Spain.

Jesús Méndez opened his own workshop in 1995. “I try to get out the soul of each character,” Méndez explains. “Women or child sculptures are more difficult than men because they do not have marked features.”

“Since 2007, I’ve been preparing a monograph with twelve figures of Elvis Presley to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his death,” Méndes says. “A businessman that loves this kind of music asked me to do the project”.

The finished work will be exhibited in Memphis in 2017. The Spanish sculptor had to represent different stages of Elvis’ life, from childhood to his final days. Terra-cotta is the media for the portraits.

“Clay is the most important material of the artist, where his footsteps are printed. In fact, it is used as the original media of any project,” Méndez said. Another compound used by Méndez is “rabbit’s glue.” “Now it is a chemical mixture, but at one time it was made with the crushed bones and the skin of rabbits,” said Méndes. (In Spanish, “tail” and “glue” are synonymous with “cola”)

Jesús Méndez Lastrucci works with both secular and religious themes.

“With my secular work, I am also very happy,” the artist explains. “The religious image does not resemble anyone, it is idealized. But real pictures have to be, or not to be.” Méndes’ hands have shaped the busts of Picasso, Alberti, well known Spaniards, etc., as well as, the religous images of Holy Week in Sevilla and other cities in Spain. “All artists have good and bad subjects. I try to bring out the best in each.”

Jesús admires two Spanish sculptors — Mariano Benlliure and Antonio Susillo. He especially admires Susillo and is writing a book about him.

“I studied one year of Applied Arts,” Méndes says. “When I was studying in high school, I was also apprenticing in the workshop of my uncle, Adolfo Castillo — Lastrucci´s son — and José Pérez, an outstanding pupil of Lastrucci,” the sculptor shared remembering his beginnings. “They advised me to get into the University of Arts in Seville. I went to the university, but I didn´t finish the studies,” he smiled with a slight hint of remorse.

Yet, he’s never looked back wishing for success — because he found it.

Leslie J. López is founder and managing editor of Insevilla, the first online magazine about Seville and the county. With a Master’s in journalism from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and a degree in philosophy from the Universidad de Sevilla, López’s work has appeared in newspapers from Mexico to Spain, as well as, on online magazines.

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