Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Rigoberto Torres


Rigoberto Torres began working at his uncle's statuary and mold factory doing religious-themed pieces. He was trained in using air brushes and mixing colors. In 1980, a cousin introduced Rigoberto to artist John Ahearn who was doing live casting of peoples' faces. He went to school, while at the same time helping John do his live casting. He learned that he is good at working with people.

He asked John if he could borrow some of the equipment and do some live casting in his neighborhood. He did a sculpture of his friend named Felix out in the street of his neighborhood in the Bronx. It was good to do things out in the open because more people can get involved. Less explanation is needed. John was living on 10th Street and Rigoberto asked him if he wanted to move out to the Bronx. They then worked together for more than 30 years. They rented a studio and had a store front.

Throughout the years they improved their technique of casting. A table must be set up and 2 straw are put in the nose while a shower cap covers the hair. The entire face is covered with the mold material with a gap at the back of the head so it later can be peeled off. They used to use straws that point out and switched to the newer straws that were curved up. They used to use a Vaseline but people complained because it would not wash off for weeks. They used to have the person wear one shirt but then for girls they decided to use 2 shirts so one could be cut off, leaving the other in place. They then decided to cut the shirt up the back beforehand so it was easier to come off. They learned to work faster. They found a material that would set faster and in time people could be done in less than 20 minutes.

Every weekend on Friday or Saturday, they would use the studio window to get a table out onto the sidewalk. On the side of the building the super allowed them to hang a series of finished busts. People would stop to ask how they could get involved. It was a way to interact with the community. The more you do the more they want. Kids who have seen casts being made in the street for months and months, then decide they want to be involved. It is a good feeling when they go after you.

Rigoberto has created so many busts and sculptures that he has lost count. Many he gave away as well. They are happy when they carry their own piece home. If they break them or scratch them he fixes them up. Sometime he makes a deal, if he makes a new one he gets to keep the old one. He makes three copies from any mold. One for the gallery, one for exhibition, and one for his collection. John did a cast of a boy named Thomas, he was 5 years old. Rigoberto wanted to top that, so he did a cast of his daughter at 2 years old. He tries to do things to improve himself as an artist.

He moved to Orlando after experiencing medical issues in the Bronx. A cat scan showed a blood clot at the back of his scull, pressing on his brain, which caused memory loss and blindness. I can think of nothing worse for a visual artist than to experience blindness. After more than 6 months however, he was able to regain his eyesight. He joked that the one thing he continued to have trouble remembering was the named of who he owed money too.


Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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