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Unearthing the “Sodbuster”

by Taylor Blumer | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Arts | October 30th, 2015

Plains Art Museum to give press conference on iconic sculpture’s restoration

For over 20 years “Sodbuster, San Isidro,” the striking, boldly powerful sculpture of a homesteader plowing with a team of bulls, could be seen hard at work tilling the intersection of Main and Broadway in downtown Fargo. Unfortunately, due to years of deterioration caused by severe North Dakota winters and an unfortunate lack of care, the once-proud art piece was placed into storage, in the hopes that it might safely wait out ensuing storms until the necessary funds for a complete restoration arrived.

Now, with a little help from its friends at the Plains Art Museum, “Sodbuster” might soon make its grand return to the public eye. On Monday, Nov. 16, at 10 a.m., the museum will give a press conference on the current condition and future of “Sodbuster.”

Over the past decade, “Sodbuster, San Isidro” has served as a retired icon of the Fargo-Moorhead area. Commissioned by the Fargo Parking Authority in 1978, the sculpture was completed in 1983 by sculptor Luis Jimenez, officially becoming his first commissioned public art piece. In 2002, the Plains Art Museum placed the sculpture in storage until funds could be raised for its restoration.

Luis Jimenez’s “Sodbuster” is a good representation of the work produced in the artist’s long, illustrious career. Jimenez was internationally renowned for creating vibrant, grandiose sculptures, often made with fiberglass. His work can still be seen in many cities and museums around the world.

Jimenez was not a native to the Red River Valley region, nor did he ever live here. Born and raised in Texas, he went to school for art and architecture at the University of Texas, Austin, in the early ’60s. Upon moving to New York City in 1966 Jimenez worked as a sculptor’s assistant and began to experiment with fiberglass sculptures. The use of brightly colored fiberglass mixed with striking, sometimes controversial themes and figures would end up becoming Jimenez’s stylistic calling card. Jimenez’s preference for dazzling colors is attributed to his time spent spray painting and welding at his father’s neon works shop when he was young.

“Sodbuster, San Isidro” was the result of extensive research, and Jimenez designed the sculpture to be an homage to the hard-working farmers and homesteaders who came to the Red River Valley to cultivate the land and realize a new livelihood for themselves. “Sodbuster” depicts a bearded farmer, clad in overalls and loose red shirt, guiding two glossy-blue bulls, whose heavily muscled bodies merge into one form as they surge forward pulling a plough. The tall grass beneath flows in waves, and the entire piece suggests enormous energy.

The sculpture was created as a response to the history of the Red River Valley, but its theme is universal. The name, “Sodbuster,” clearly informs us of the farmer’s activity in the piece, while “San Isidro” refers to the patron saint of farmers and agriculture, thereby helping cement the sculpture’s purpose as a celebration of the dignity of work, especially that of the agrarian working class.

Over the years since its first unveiling “Sodbuster” became one of the defining symbols of the Fargo-Moorhead community. Hopefully, we may soon welcome a “Sodbuster” back in its prime. For many, it would be nice to see an old friend once again.

IF YOU GO:

“Sodbuster, San Isidro” preservation press conference

Mon, Nov. 16, 10 a.m.

Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave N, Fargo

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