Q&A: Francisco Sotomayor has captured the "American Woman" in all her marble glory
When we think back to the ideal of the true American Dream, images of freedom and the great frontier contribute to the Manifest Destiny that shaped our country. Artist, sculptor and Colorado native Francisco Sotomayor combined that revolutionary mindset with imagery from American culture to form his most monumental piece: "American Woman." Seriously, it's monumental. Carved from a 21-ton block of white marble, Sotomayor's "Woman" depicts a lovely lady lounging atop a grand piano. Weighing about 10,000 pounds, this gorgeous gal has been touring the country, so far traveling more than 28,000 miles and stopping in 46 cities and venues.
Photos provided by Francisco Sotomayor. Francisco Sotomayor's "American Woman" is touring the country.
But "American Woman" doesn't end with Manifest Destiny. Sotomayor also wants her to be shared and experienced by the entire country. During shows, he signs three-inch chunks of marble from the original block so visitors can return home with a piece of the "American Woman."
And although the sculpture won't be returning to Colorado anytime soon, there's no better time to celebrate the piece than on Colorado Day, when we mark our state's 136th birthday and its admittance as the 38th state of the Union.
Westword spoke with Sotomayor in more detail about his patriotic lady.
Westword: What was your original idea for this project?
Francisco Sotomayor: Years before I started the sculpture, I had seen movies with Michelle Pfeiffer, like the Fabulous Baker Boys when she gets on a fabulous piano, and other singers like Madonna on a piano. As an artist, I thought it was just a gorgeous composition. If I could figure out the engineering to put 10,000 pounds on three legs and make it easy and safe to move about the country, I would.
How did the name come about?
It's an American sculpture because it captures a signature of our country. When I was carving it, the title was not "American Woman," and then I realized I was truly capturing what the American woman meant to me. As a 56-year-old artist, I was influenced by Marilyn Monroe and Michele Pfeiffer as a full-figured woman on top of a concert grand piano. That's why she's been appreciated -- because you see her not as a runway model, but as a real woman. Another reason it's called "American Woman" is because six models posed for this one sculpture, so it can't be recognized as one woman, but as the best parts of all the women. Women around the country can see a little bit of themselves in the face or figure. It's not just a celebrity, but an icon of a multitude of women.
When and how did this project finally start?
The sculpture started in 2001 as a carving and was finished in 2003. The thought process before that was probably another half a dozen years thinking about it, acquiring the stone and finding the quarry. I used Colorado marble from the Yule Marble Quarry. That block weighed 42,000 pounds, or 21 tons, and it took them approximately six months to find because of my demanding specifications.
I looked for clarity and really good consistency with no fractures. Marble is metamorphic limestone that lays down in bedding like the ocean, which makes its strength. I had to make sure the grain patten was through the piano and not perpendicular for maximum strength. The wrong direction of bedding makes it five times weaker. Plus I needed the clarity of the stone to ensure the veins or distortion of imaging with the face of the "American Woman" herself. That's what I shot for as a sculptor was the face, and everything else follows in a top-down method. A documentary was made showing the progression of the sculpture. I started with the head and face, which gave me the correct proportions for the rest of the piece.