Raphael Monzies sculpture featured at Galería Izamal opening

By Henry Vermillion

Raphael Monzies was born on the French Riviera into a family of artists. As a young man, he went to Paris and discovered the work of Rodin, Bourdelle and Degas. Yet his biggest influence and inspiration as a sculptor came when he discovered —in Prague—the work of Jan Stursa, a little known Czech master. New figurative work by Raphael Monzies can be seen at the opening at Galeria Izamal.

While still young, Raphael apprenticed in the workshops of the ancient pottery village of La Bourne, in the heart of France. There, he worked with an old 60-foot-long kiln. The kiln was fired for six nights and seven days “like a hungry dragon eating three-foot tree logs.” At La Bourne, day and night, he met artists, ceramicists and sculptors from all over the world. Since then, he has traveled and lived in various parts of Europe, Morocco, the United States, Canada, and Mexico, learning how to make stoneware and Raku, and how to work in wood and stone. He also absorbed the myths, traditions and art of these countries.

After years of travel, in San Miguel he finally learned about bronze casting at the Instituto Allende from the master sculptor Jesus Méndez. Raphael now casts with the lost-wax process. “The wax I use is an incredible material. It’s composed of beeswax, paraffin, pine resin, and Campeche wax. When you stretch it, it feels like a muscle,” he says. He models his figures in the wax, which is lost in the firing process; none of his sculptures are alike. Various acids, silver, copper or sulfur create the final patina of the piece. He likes to see the traces of his fingers left in the final sculpture, along with traces of the torch; the pieces are not polished and finely finished.

He sometimes does dragons, bulls or a Buddha, but, like Degas, he always returns to the nude figure. His work is in collections in Europe, the United States and Mexico, and he now lives in San Miguel de Allende.

Galería Izamal is San Miguel’s oldest co-operative gallery. Work by gallery artists Lourdes Cordero, Juan Ezcurdia, Javier García, Catherine Gielis, David Godínez, Javier González, Cat Grall, Henry Vermillion and Britt Zaist will also be on display.

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