My interest in drawing began at a young age. I remember trying to capture the image of things that caught my attention; some of these things were animals, plants, landscapes, people and countless others. My urge to sketch and draw was part of who I am and the act of mark making always felt natural. It was like creating magic, it allowed me to escape and go beyond reality into my own magical world.
My work is about how I experience the world around me, natural and artificial, organic and inorganic, concrete or ephemeral.
In the News
LAS CRUCES SUN-NEWS
Sculpting comes naturally to Artist and Teacher
By S. Derrickson Moore SUN-NEWS Reporter
March 19, 2006
Jesus Mata, one of the Borderland’s best-known sculptors and art educator’s, has attracted legions of fans for everything from his graceful, large-scale sculptures, to his generosity in sharing knowledge with students.
“He’s one of the most well-tempered people I have ever met and he has so much skill it’s ridiculous. He’s just entered a graduate program so he can get back into sculpture and try new things,” said Damon LaGarry of Charles,Inc. “His capabilities are so great. He can work with wood, clay, stone, bronze and he’s consistently good throughout everything he does. There’s not anything he’s not comfortable working with. What jazzes me most is his conceptual stuff. He’s good with drawing and painting, so he get ideas across really well. He makes the best use of whatever he’s chosen to work with.”
Mata recently decided to go back to New Mexico State University to earn a master’s degree in fine art.
“I couldn’t stay away,” he quipped at the opening of the NMSU Student Exhibition, continuing through March 30 at NMSU’s University Art Gallery.
He made some of the most cutting-edge contributions to the show.
A gallery visitor sought him out to purchase his abstract drawing while Mata was explaining his innovative installation piece: polished rock domes, emerging from rows of mounded adobe earth.
Mata said the piece is meant to evoke “life and death images: seeds, cemeteries, crop rows. I saw this sand by Highway 70” and was inspired by the red earth.
“It probably has something to do with growing up working in the fields picking chile,” said the Anthony native.
“Sculpting has always felt very natural to me. It’s part of my life, it’s who I am,” he said, adding that his passion for art began “when I was very, very young.”
According to his biography, he “started carving at age 8, learning the basics of using a chisel and hammer from my father, Arturo Mata,” and “began carving wood under the guidance of Salvador Barron, a Mexican craftsman.”
In 1985, when he was 17, he began an apprenticeship with El Paso artist Steve Edwards.
Edwards, he said, “encouraged me to go to college.” After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a B.A. degree in Spanish from NMSU, he combined his own art career with teaching.
“I’ve been an artist-in-residence in Gadsden Public Schools for six years, teaching art to students from elementary to high school” age.
He said he would have a tough time deciding if he prefers teaching or creating art.”Both are so much a part of me now that I couldn’t have one without the other. I love working with little kids. It frees me up and I learn a lot from them.”
He enjoys silverpoint, drawing, and painting. He works in stone, bronze, and steel, sometimes combining materials in a single piece. He has worked in granite, onyx, marble, limestone, and alabaster.
Commissions come from the word of mouth and those who encounter his work at Charles Inc., in Mesilla, where his creations have attracted fans and patrons throughout the world.
“I’m lucky that this little town is a tourist attraction,” he said.
“I think the world of him,” said Nancy Charles-Byres, who praised his “sense of the human form” and “his kindness. He’s one of the truly spiritual men I have met and his wife and child are all phenomenal. Couple that with an incredible intelligence and talent. It’s rare to find all those blessings in one person and I think it comes through in his work. That he can work in any media is amazing to me. I love him as a person and as an artist.”
He recently completed a “really magnificent, larger-than-life bronze cougar,” she said, that will soon move to a permanent home at a new local subdivision, The Pueblos at Alameda Ranch.
She said she is impressed with his patience and ability to cope with the challenging physical labor of large-scale sculpture.
His flowing images seem effortless, but Mata admits it takes a lot of strength to conjure his graceful figures from tons of rock.
“It’s pretty tough, but very satisfying. Once you’re done, everything aches, everything in me hurts, but it’s always worth it,” he said.
“I’ve never done a lot of exhibiting. I’m really not very public. I guess this exhibit is showing another part of me.”
S. Derrickson Moore