Jojo was excited to start the year right by this commission work. And like any other portraiture projects without bias to the size, the study of the patron’s character was done.
In Pope John XXIII Encyclical during the 100th Anniversary of St. John M. Vianney's Death in August 1, 1959, it was promulgated, “you cannot begin to speak of St. John Mary Vianney without automatically calling to mind the picture of a priest who was outstanding in a unique way in voluntary affliction of his body. The gaunt figure of John Baptist Vianney, with that head shining with long hair that resembled a snowy crown, and that thin face, wasted from long fasting, where the innocence and holiness of the meekest and humblest of souls shone forth so clearly that the first sight of it called crowds of people back to thoughts of salvation."
The saint, among other description is also highlighted of his being dismissive, scornful, and contemptuous of the spiritual foes, so that from the human perspective, and as most of numerous artists’ interpretation in visuals, the patron is depicted just so. But Jojo is not about to replicate the same physical attributes that others have done. For him, starving the flesh cannot hunger the spirit! As he came to know the patron during the course of character study, his depiction of St. John Vianney this time will be a reminder of that strong and charismatic character.
As a sculptor with 20 years experience in working with portraiture and several public monuments all over the country, Jojo’s constant challenge is capturing the personality of the subject. He says, “There is this certain level of understanding the inner persona that guides me to translate the character into the form. And as I mold St. John Vianney’s character, beyond the stereotype and horror-like interpretation by other artists, I see him come alive in my medium, as a real and warm person… a beautiful face!”
Jojo started working up a small batch of clay adding lumps here and there, until he was happy with the substantial presentation. The supposed to be statuette became a mini bust portrait that when Fr. Frank came to check the initial form, he was surprised and happy to see the enlarged version instead.
“I have this urge to satisfy something inside me, and it is beyond commercial value. I’m not dealing with Fr. Frank anymore, I’m already dealing with the Saint himself,” he says of his work and the reason he made this project big, not just in size, but it occupied a big space in his heart. True enough, Jojo was thankful of the good feedback from the Fathers at the seminary when the bust portrait was delivered in June 2010. The reproduction requested was started in July, of which entailed equally intensive attention and dedicated hours for the fine details. August came, St. John Vianney is not to leave the corners of Jojo’s eyes as yet, because he is now halfway working with the bigger version of the bust portrait. Indeed by faith, a venue was made available for its drying stage as he got hold of a humble place right at the back of his rented house to be his studio in Cagayan de Oro.
As of this writing, the bust for the bigger version sits in the heart of the studio for drying while Jojo executes fine detailing on the replicas of the first project. With this ambiance, kids would excitedly report to him every afternoon after school hours for their clay sculpture class.
Through his brain-child, the Urian Arts Center, a learning center for the arts, this is a scholarship for neighbors, aimed at having arts presence in the local community. He spends his energy giving no space for mediocrity, and he says of his high standards, “It is the understanding of what good work is all about. I want my students to start early because what they will learn from this experience, they can apply in their daily lives”. He is excited for more projects seeking his studio, to sustain several outreach activities.
“I have the confidence to declare that I am satisfied with my handy work, and to my end, I can say this project is successful!” Jojo swears, adding that “the project for St. John Vianney has been personally a meaningful and fruitful journey.”