The opportunity to rekindle the friendship between two of my favorite sculptors couldn’t have had a better outcome. Louis Mendez and Sheryl Zacharia have much in common, so much so, that I asked if they’d participate in Studio Potter Archive’s “Potter on Potter” article series, and to my luck, they’ve agreed. So, without saying much more, here’s Sheryl’s reaction to Mendez; as artist and friend. — p.k.
By Sheryl Zacharia.
The first time I met Louis Mendez was in a classroom at Greenwich House Pottery — Louis enrolled into a class I was teaching to work on some small sculptures, and for the company and interaction of other clay-folk. At the time, I had no idea that such a master; with some 60-plus years of experience, was in my presence. After a couple of classes, Louis gave me his website to look at and needless to say, I was astounded– this humble and gentle man’s artistic vision left me in awe. Shortly thereafter, Louis seemingly disappeared and it would be some four years later until we’d meet again.
My reintroduction to Louis Mendez was borne from an interview I did for Studio Potter Archive — Paul Kowalchuk’s grassroots approach to the serious art of collecting potters’ work, while offering unique perspectives into their lives. My initial introduction to Paul was through the Art School at Old Church’s Karen Karnes Invitational in December of 2011; an exhibit I participated in for the first time. During an interview made after Old Church, I learned that Paul and Louis are not only good friends, but also working together on some exciting projects. I also learned that some health issues interrupted Louis’ time at Greenwich House, yet on that same day also stood the grand opportunity to get acquainted once again. This fortuitous connection; between the three of us, had offered Louis and me the opportunity to reconnect, and I couldn’t have been more excited.
In what seemed to have been a blink of an eye, I found myself with Paul enjoying the company of Louis and Dianne Mendez in their gorgeous SoHo home. The opportunity to visit what I call the Mendez museum, was quite wonderful — there is something quite spectacular about seeing work; by the dozens, up close and personal, and to hold and touch surfaces so rich in texture. As I feasted my eyes on his amazing and eclectic works I quickly realized that Louis’ career exhibits many incarnations. From fine artist to a highly successful line of production ware masks and from his charming smaller works in bronze to a wall of unique drawings, there’s much to behold. And of course, who can deny his erotica; playfully sexy, yet spoken with a wonderful hint of humor.
Louis’ work is so comprehensive in its scope that finding the words to adequately write about it seems daunting to me. I do, however, feel Louis to be a kindred spirit, and like my own, his influences are clearly historical. He uniquely interprets “history” with a modern and colorful approach. His surface treatment is much like my mine; color and texture in abundance.
Crucial to my reaction to his work is the experience of being taken through a spiritual journey — I could feel the pulse of many cultures and the ages of time running through his veins. Intuitively, we are both fans of texture (stamping) and color. In his own words, Louis described himself as a “texture freak”, and is something I wholeheartedly relate to!
I also see references to textiles in his work; a similar passion of mine. His sculpture has a woven feeling, one that’s evident in the stamping and connecting of multiple pieces of clay together, resulting in a continuous theme of strong synchronicity, much like a beautiful woven fabric or pieced-together quilt. In discussing the origins of his custom made stamps, I eagerly listened as Louis told me that his stamping started many years ago by pressing extraneous pieces from his woodcarvings into the clay.
It is undeniable that Louis feels a great connection to the monumental and often ritualistic art of many cultures. I find, however, that his works are in no way reproduced– they are excitingly original, and a direct result (if not subliminal) to being keenly aware of those who have come before him. I often make a mark or go in a direction while working on a sculpture that leaves me believing something indefinable, even unexplained, guides my hands. It is this experience that I deeply recognize in his work; a guidance that he, too, says is evident in his work.
Louis is an artist in which talents abound. His sculptures are moving; dramatic and quiet in the same instance, and exhibit an overall craftsmanship that’s of the highest quality. But what I find most compelling of his work is its ability to inspire me; to make more, work harder, and do better. Yet it is Louis Mendez’s spirit that reaches out and touches me in ways that have me realizing that he truly is a kindred spirit, and one whose friendship I’ll never cease taking inspiration from.
– Sheryl Zacharia, 2012