By Sadira DeMarino
On a crisp fall day with leaves falling all around, I walk up to a Prescott house, through the front door and am greeted by a rather large mountain lion.
Luckily, this particular mountain lion is a sculpture by Jesse Homoki, so I don’t need to remember any of my “What To Do When Confronted By A Mountain Lion” training. That’s a particular skill set you might need while hiking in Prescott, especially on the Brownlow Trail, which happens to be the home of another one of Homoki’s mountain lions. You may also remember a mountain lion sculpture that lives at the Prescott Public Library; it’s another part of Homoki’s sculpture family.
Art & the artist
Bronze and wax figures dot Homoki’s home and backyard studio. Each bronze sculpture starts life as a wax carving cast into what becomes a mold. These wax renderings are intricate and precise. I can only imagine how much time and meticulous attention to detail it takes to create them.
Sculptures aren’t the only things I’m here to talk about. As you may’ve guessed by his last name, Homoki’s Hopi. He grew up in the Window Rock area on the Reservation, and he credits that upbringing with some of his artistic inspiration. Homoki attended Northern Arizona University as a mechanical engineering student and had never taken an art class. He took one, though, and was hooked.
Homoki’s been making bronze sculptures for 30 years. But there’s a twist.
Homoki picked up a wax cat he’d carved and the final bronze it bore. There, smartly woven into its chest fur, are a rabbit, a butterfly, and a dove.
All of Homoki’s pieces have hidden elements. He believes they give each piece an extra meaning and another story to tell. Homoki laughs and says it’s not necessarily a “Where’s Waldo?” hidden object game or anything like that. He’s interested in art that’s not a textbook representation of animals or people.
Homoki crosses his studio, turns around a cowgirl sculpture, “Penny Postcards,” and traces a word that’s barely visible in the strands of her hair as he recites a poem that goes along with the piece.
Knowing how much there is to his pieces, I’m eager to spend more time with that mountain lion at the library.
Stories & figures
As we walk around Homoki’s studio, I can’t help but notice huge monoliths of sandstone and rocks rising from the ground.
“Being an artist,” Homoki says, “I’m always doing something, always tweaking things and trying new things.”
These are the next incarnation of his art. He calls them “more primitive,” but I see intricate details in them similiar to his sculptures. When Homoki chooses each stone piece, he looks for its story. (“Why is it there? What does it mean?”) Then he coaxes that story from the stone by welding metal pieces to it and sandblasting images into it using stencils he creates from inner tubes and metal. His sand, by the way, is a byproduct of crushed slag from steel.
In these new pieces, Homoki hopes to bring the magic of the Hopi people into patron’s homes.
“Art says something about the society it came from,” he says. “I’m adding a part of who I am. … And when we create art, we start talking about who we are.”
As I wander through Homoki’s pieces, I look at the stone figures again. Each one looks like an ancient petroglyph that’s come to life, jumped down from a wall and, indeed, is eager to tell you its history, life, and stories.
If you want to see Homoki’s new works, you’ll have to visit his studio. Lucky for you, there’s an open house: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 16 and 17 at 1625 Vyne St.
Sadira DeMarino lives in Prescott, where she’s owned and operated the resale clothing store Snap Snap for 18 years. For the past two years she’s been in business with her mother at 133 N. Cortez St. Contact her at SadiraDas@Yahoo.Com.