Faux Bois Sculptures of Dionicio Rodriguez

The Martha Stewart Show, March 2008

Author and artist Patsy Pittman Light spent a decade documenting the imaginative sculptures by Mexican faux bois artisan Dionicio Rodriguez for her book, "Capturing Nature." Many of Dionicio's projects in San Antonio are found within a few miles of Patsy's home, and one summer day in 1995, she grabbed her camera and began photographing his pieces with a fellow historian. Patsy realized that his work in Arkansas and Tennessee had been listed on the National Register, and originally set out to list his work in Texas, but the project quickly exceeded her expectations when she found his unique sculptures in seven other states.

The fantastic faux bois sculptures capture the essence of nature. He possessed the ability to mimic the natural shapes of trees, branches, and rocks. The bases of his pieces were created with rebar and metal lathe, with a first coat of concrete. With simple homemade tools, like combs and homemade brushes, he sculpted the final textures with pure Portland cement.

Many visitors to San Antonio are familiar with the Japanese Tea Garden in Brackenridge Park. In 1917, the City Parks Commissioner of San Antonio asked a Japanese artist named Mr. Jingu to help him design the garden and live in a house there with his family. But after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the city turned off the Jingu's water and they were forced to move because of anti-Japanese sentiment. The garden didn't have a gate back then, and Dionicio and Maximo Cortes, another faux bois artisan, were hired by the City of San Antonio Parks Department to sculpt a Torii-style portal. The calligraphy reads "China Garden." But in 1980, a city councilman made a suggestion to invite the Jingu family back and honor them by renaming the beautiful area "Japanese Tea Garden," although Dionicio's stunning gates say otherwise.

Learn more about the amazing faux bois sculptures of Mexican artisan Dionicio Rodriguez by checking out Patsy Pittman Light's "Capturing Nature." Special thanks to Texas A&M University Press for giving copies of Patsy's book to our studio audience.



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