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Artist infuses sculptures with meaning

MTC sculptor puts personal touch into each piece’s story

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Erasmo Fuentes stands in the pioneer cemetery in Spanish Fork with the statue he made of a pioneer family.

Erasmo Fuentes stands in the pioneer cemetery in Spanish Fork with the statue he made of a pioneer family.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There is a meaning and a lesson behind every bronze sculpture created by LDS Church member Erasmo Fuentes.

Fuentes, who hails from Mexico, has been sculpting professionally for the past 25 years, creating works that always have underlying meanings.

"Each of my sculptures has a story behind them," Fuentes said Friday during an appearance at the downtown flagship Deseret Book store. "The thing that drives me is if something has a meaning behind it."

For Fuentes, sculpting is a way for him to reproduce life through his own translation of events and people.

One example of this reproduction comes from one of his most well-known sculptures "Anxiously Engaged," which sits at Provo's Missionary Training Center and depicts a missionary companionship riding bikes.

"Two of my kids were on a mission at the same time I created the work," Fuentes said.

Fuentes, who saw five of his children serve full-time missions for the church, knew he had to truly depict the driving force behind the church's growth in its missionary program through the sculpture.

"I decided I was going to do the two missionaries the way I thought missionaries were," Fuentes said. "They are always driven, focused and going forward with the very important job that they are doing."

Fuentes' love for sculpting began at a young age, as he was mesmerized by the transformations that take place in the art.

"I remember as a kid being fascinated that someone could turn a stone into a sculpture," Fuentes said. He later took classes at BYU, and the hobby turned quickly into a career.

Fuentes is also a gifted guitarist but said that one thing sets sculpting apart from music.

"When I play live, it's just for three or 10 minutes and it's gone," Fuentes said. "The sculpture is always there."

While Fuentes has been very grateful for his astounding talent and gift, he said that there is one gift he finds better than all the rest — his family.

"I'm very happy with my family. All our children are faithful in the church and are college grads," Fuentes said. "They are all good people — I could not ask for more."

Fuentes visited Salt Lake City as part of Deseret Book's "Lunch and Learn" series, which was launched at the beginning of April to provide the store's customers an opportunity to interact with guest artists as they present or perform their works on site.

"We're 'raising the bar' on the art," said Linda Howard, who is the art connoisseur of the store. "Art doesn't sell by itself. It needs someone to take you through its process."

Deseret Book's Lunch and Learn Series, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays

Today: Joseph Brickey, artist

June 11: J. Kirk Richards, painter, author and illustrator w/ Michael Mclean, songwriter and vocalist

June 18: Ben McPherson, artist

June 25: Julie Rodgers, painter

July 2: Dennis Smith, painter and sculptor

July 9: Robert Boyd, photographic artist

July 16: Organ recital

July 23: Julie Rodgers, displaying pioneer artwork

July 30: Al Rounds, painter

August 6: Robert T. Barrett, painter and illustrator

August 13: Robert Boyd

August 20: Jack Morford, sculptor

August 27: Chris Young, painter

September 3: Shirley Mckay Britsch, painter

September 10: Eric Dowdle, folk art, framed art and prints

September 17: Sandra Rast, artist

e-mail: danng@desnews.com