Good Neighbor - Jorge Lavato
by Pat Saik
Artist Jorge Lovato is a meanderer, loving big cities, wide dusty plains and the quiet of a small-town art community. You may find him in New York City, or Santa Fe to where he travels on a regular basis, not only to show his work, but to infuse his creativity with new ideas.
Jorge, of both Spanish and Native American descent, is an accomplished wood carver of miniatures, tiny renditions of animals, as well as a painter, drawn to landscapes and cityscapes rendered in black and white and more recently in pale palettes of color. The artist found his meandering way to the Mississippi coast after having read a magazine article about the artistic community growing in Bay St. Louis. He bought a fixer-upper in the 4th Ward on Ballentine Street in 2000 and when he is in town, finds refuge in his modest home.
Walking into Jorge’s home, one also walks into his studio. His front room comprises his work space for carving. A big wooden desk is covered with miniature wooden objects in the process of becoming formed into horses and elephants, birds and bears - many comprising groups of animals carved together from a single piece of wood. Jorge casts many of his carvings in bronze. He may also decide to hand-color his carvings, using water colors for a translucent effect.
Born to a mother named Eva, who, to amuse herself, hand-carved fantastic figures in wood , and to a kind father who appreciated Eva’s works, and encouraged her membership in the Rio Grande Wood Carving Club. Jorge describes his father as “a nice, gentle person.”
Imbued in art as a child, Jorge himself came to carving only after he returned from Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, he served in 1969 and 1970 near South Vietnam on the U.S.S. Sanctuary as a Navy hospital corpsman. Giving whatever aid and comfort that he could to severely-injured soldiers has left him with indelible memories of their faces. When he completed his military service, he returned to Taos, New Mexico, his birthplace and childhood home. After having begun an artistic career in Albuquerque, in 1975 he decided to enter art school under the GI bill, in pursuit of work he hoped could bring peace instead of turmoil. Jorge has studied at the Art Students’ League and the New Orleans Fine Art Center. Although an art school graduate, he continues to study whenever he can. “I’m always taking classes,” he states matter-of-factly.
Having lived or studied in many places, Jorge also has bodies of work from such places—Australia, Florence, Italy, Pittsburgh, New York, Tucson, Santa Fe and Taos. His cityscapes, often rendered in pen and ink, are infused with patient adoration the scene he beholds. Simply put, “I love cities.”
His love of cities does not diminish his love for Bay St. Louis. Jorge also loves the landscape of the water and draws and paints many of the everyday scenes that people living here enjoy every day: live oaks, boats harbored for the night, or the richness of the greenery surrounding him on a drive from New Orleans to Bay St. Louis on old Highway 90.
Jorge describes himself as “working in bursts.” His most recent “bursts” have resulted in a new “sunflower series” containing evocative studies of this much-loved flower. Why sunflowers? “I just like them.” No better reason than that.
See more of Jorge's work at this website: www.plazaescalante.com
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