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Nave Museum features granite sculptor Jesus Moroles

By Jessica Priest
March 28, 2013 at 11 p.m.
Updated March 28, 2013 at 10:29 p.m.

Rockport artist Jesus Moroles tweaks the lights for his exhibit at the Nave Museum. Moroles uses granite for his sculptures.

IF YOU GO:

The "Jesus Moroles: 30 Years of Sculpture" Exhibit

• WHEN: Noon-4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; noon-7 p.m. Thursday until May 5

The "Chalk Walk"

• WHEN: 10 a.m.-noon March 29

• WHERE: 306 W. Commercial Street in Victoria

• FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 361-575-8227, email info@navemuseum.com or visit navemuseum.com.

Fresh out of college, Jesus Moroles drove down Commercial Street more than 30 years ago and caught sight of the white, pillared building.

"Royston Nave Memorial" emblazoned out front, he got out of his car on a whim, hoping to get some sort of gig.

"I rolled up one of my posters and put it next to the door. ... They called me the next morning," Moroles said, smiling.

The Corpus Christi native is back in perfect form for the next month, paying homage to the place he says helped grow a body of artistic work that's both prolific and featured in countries as far away as China, Egypt and Italy.

And it's clear as soon as patrons walk through the museum's double doors where that work is headed.

Granite, Moroles said, is his staple. He wants people to be struck by how bizarre it is to suspend the tough material from the ceiling or from a wall. Those are hollowed out pieces weighing 40 pounds instead 600. He wants people to understand how to create something new out of something old and everlasting - nature.

"I tried everything," Moroles said about his early days after graduating with a bachelor of fine arts from the University of North Texas, "but when I got to granite, it was so immovable."

Back then, he made the novice mistake of pounding the rock with a marble chisel that instantly crumbled in his hands.

"It was frustrating. I felt like it was pushing me instead of me pushing it. ... And it's still beating me up," he said, chuckling.

The only thing that can cut into granite is diamond, so he ditched the chisel in favor of the diamond saw he set up in his Rockport studio. He also uses fire to tear granite. That allows him to make unique shapes, such as the winding staircase-like figure that's featured in the Nave's back room.

It has grooves on one side, which Moroles encourages art enthusiasts to poke and prod. He's not worried people may go overboard and break things.

Take the checkerboard circle standing on its side in the Nave's front hall. Moroles added some dips to the back when he pieced it back together a few years ago. There was no one nearby when it fell off a stand and shattered at a museum in New Orleans.

"I think it's actually better than the original," he said. "We've become such a throw-away society. My family used to take hair dryers apart, pull the hair out of them and solder the wire together. Now, we just go to Wal-Mart and buy another one."

He said that's the equivalent of saying someone with dyslexia isn't worth time or effort.

Amy Leissner, executive director of the museum, said that element of the exhibit, which is the first of its kind at this facility, makes it ideal for families with children.

"The art is accessible and fun," she said, looking forward to a museum event Friday called "Chalk Walk" that would cater to youngsters.

She said about 150 people turned up at the members' preview March 21 and even more people have flocked to the Nave during the downtown murder mystery series.

"It's really rare for people in Victoria to get to see an artist of this caliber. We're really so grateful and excited that he is here," Leissner said.

Moroles is inspired by the work of artists Andy Goldsworthy and Picasso, who he said through both sheer volume and hard work were able to create stunning masterpieces. At any given moment, Moroles is working on 25 commissions, such as sculptures, plazas and fountains. And, to date, he's completed about 5,000 pieces.

"If you don't imagine it (the success), it won't happen," Moroles said.

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