By Aubrey Hobart
Curator of Collections
Roswell Museum and Art Center
A couple of weeks ago, I drove to El Paso with two of my colleagues to pick up some art that had been donated to the Roswell Museum and Art Center. The three smaller works weren’t a problem to collect, but an eight-foot bronze sculpture proved somewhat more challenging. We hired a local crane company to move the half-ton statue from the corner of the artist’s porch onto our trailer and drove it carefully the 200 miles back to Roswell. The city’s excellent facilities department helped us maneuver the piece into its permanent home in RMAC’s outdoor sculpture garden.
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The artist of these works, Ho Baron, initially reached out to the RMAC for this gift because of our city’s association with aliens. One look at his work will demonstrate why. His sculptures are unsettling, made up of humanoid beings with too many eyes and mouths. They twist in unnatural ways, grinning from every joint and orifice. However, as I came to study his work, with the aim of choosing the best pieces for our community, I found a strange beauty in his unique and consistent vision.
At his home in El Paso, Baron maintains a public sculpture garden, giving tours for anyone interested in exploring his work. Some guests and neighbors have called his sculptures demonic, and perform rituals to protect themselves as they walk by, but Baron doesn’t believe in the existence of one being that embodies pure evil. Instead, he believes in the more mundane human evils like greed, theft, dishonesty and ignorance. This is evident in one of his donations called “Committee,” which depicts eight faces merged together in one bronze relief panel. The committee, Baron says, is the new royal power, a body without a heart that makes decisions for others.
Another gift, “Post-Nuclear Dog” — shown above — depicts a thin dog running frantically. His human-like teeth, at least one set of them, are clenched in a grin, while at the other end, his tongue is stuck out in playful exhaustion with a ball balanced on the tip. The dog’s sides are covered with human faces, illustrating a melding of dog and human after a nuclear catastrophe. It’s both disturbing and fun.
The third piece that was given to RMAC is a bust that was made from the same mold as a larger sculpture. The larger work is called “Doppelganger” and it shows a figure striding forward while another being emerges smoke-like from its back. The first figure is meant to represent our ego, our conscious traits and attitudes, while the other is our unconscious self, our shadow, which can be a positive or negative force in our lives. The museum’s new bust is a copy of the head of the conscious figure and shares the same name as the full sculpture.
The most spectacular of the donated works is “The Distortionists.” It features three stacked acrobats contorted into difficult postures and supporting each other. Baron speaks for the figures when he says, “I am grotesque, contortionists distorted, chained, frozen, stuck, going nowhere, bound yet exotic, gleaming and glowing, immobile, fixed, flexing in performance, fantastic, dead in metal, alive in motion, unreal, super real, bizarre, curious, fantastic, zigzagging, screwed-up, pliant, frightening yet laughable, queer and deformed, reckless, elastic, intense, sensuous, erotic to some and fantastic to all. We are absolutely phantasmagorical, deformed, perverse, and unbelievable. We’re skilled gymnasts so limber, splitting, twisting, yoga-like, transcending the chains, weighted down yet stacked upward, heavenly bound but forever stuck. Watch us, it’s all so humorous. We’re an illusion, a delusion, and a dreaming, chained, bound, linked. We’re imprisoned by our nature, faces and faces, links and links; we are the sculptures of man. We are the distorted everyman, we are you, and we’re all so foolish.”
As this passage suggests, Baron is a writer as well as an artist with advanced degrees in English and Library Science. His two books, “Gods for Future Religions” and “El Paso: A Hoverview” meld his literary and artistic pursuits, and both are available for purchase online. Baron opens his home to curious visitors on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. If you find yourself in the El Paso area anytime soon, I recommend going; it is absolutely a unique experience and Baron is a great tour guide. For more information and pictures of his work, visit hobaron.com
If you can’t make it to Baron’s house, you can at least experience part of his astounding vision right here in Roswell. “The Distortionists” is now on permanent display in our north courtyard, and “Post-Nuclear Dog” will probably make its debut in our animal exhibit which is scheduled to open next summer.