Eduardo Segovia: Still thinking big but racing against age and illness
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series about Cuenca sculptor Eduardo Segovia. To read the first part, click here.
By John Keeble
Eduardo Segovia, Cuenca’s 83-year-old ceramicist, yearns to take on the big projects that swirl through his creative mind but reflects on his failing physical energy and admits: “I am old and I have not accomplished my goals. “I have in my head much more to make to show the world. I am thinking big. Bigger sculptures, monuments, ceramic sculptures. I feel that if I have a meter to walk [in this life] I have walked only five centimeters. My physical energy is failing. I can see that I won’t be able to accomplish all that I have thought.”
To see him and hear him, no one would think of him as anything but ready to take on more projects but he suffers from an incurable illness and he is conscious of his age.
In his studio and home, which he shares with his second wife Cumanda Alvarez, he works almost every day as a ceramicist and painter, always welcoming those who want to see his work and encouraging younger artists.
A disappointment in his distinguished career has been the lack of recognition and acceptance by Cuenca’s city council, which has chosen not to take up his offers for the people.
“In 2008, I offered to leave my house and my art collection to the city as a museum,” he said. “They told me they did not have time to consider it. I withdrew my offer. I am upset with the culture. I offered a mural and the council refused. In 1978, I worked with a Russian to create a mock-up for a sculpture for the roundabout outside Feria Libre. I gave them the mock-up. Nothing was done and they never gave it back. I have never had good encounters with the city council.”
Now, in what he sees as his final years, he is giving his designs to a group painting murals in the area where he lives. The city council has not given its blessing to the project but appears not to have any power to stop it.
In a life that started with poverty and disadvantage, Segovia learned to work hard as well as creatively – but he has no doubt that he was meant for his chosen path. “It is in my genes,” he said. “My father was a great painter, a man of letters, an intellectual. Even if I had not come to the area of the pot makers, I would still have come to art – I was destined to this.”
Destiny can be a rocky road and Segovia found he had his share of rocks on the way. As a young man, he tried to get his work accepted for a public show. “I was mocked.” Those who had the authority to give him a show asked: ‘Why? You should sell this in the market’.
“That motivated me to get better. I needed to have my work shown. I worked very hard for a year and then took my work back.”
The president of the local Casa de la Culture was convinced. “He said I was young but good enough to exhibit.” That as in the early 1960s, more than half a century ago, when he was in his mid-20s. By the 1980s, his work was being shown in other countries, including some in Europe. The praise and the scrapbooks of articles by art critics grew along with his fame and success.
It was never about money,” he said, recalling the driving forces in his life. “I never liked money much. I only wanted to have enough to eat and work. All the time I wanted to get better. It was not for other people. It was for my own sake. It was for me to accomplish my vision – but, sadly, I still have not accomplished everything.”
In pursuing his art, he made enough for his family to live. “I wish I had made a little more money but I am happy. I have made enough. I always aspired to make things people enjoyed. I still have many things I would like to accomplish.”
He added that he was an admirer of all art forms and pointed to some key influences in his work – three Dutch artists and Pablo Picasso in particular. He has examples of their work displayed at his home, some original and some in printed form. “It is like trying to touch [the great artists], to be like them,” he said. “I really wish I could do it.”
The Dutch artists – Margot Homan, Anna Reinders and Marie Verdijk – welcomed him into their world and they collaborated as he learned.
“From Marie Verdijk I learned a lot about composition of the clay, about the mixing of the paint, and techniques,” he said. “She showed me one of the best things: to be humble and share everything. I emulate her in this.”
In that quiet, beautiful room of his favourite art, he paused to contemplate the past and the future. “I have an illness,” he said. “Perhaps it will take me to the other side. I think I will die of old age [rather than] the illness. I feel that soon I won’t be here.”
Then he told of his philosophy: he was created in clay, the played in clay, he is going back to clay – “God was the first ceramicist because he made us from clay.”
He added: “When I leave this world and go to that other world, I hope there is clay so that I can continue my work.”
But life and hope spring eternal and Segovia, The Maestro to his followers, got up to return to his clay workshop. He had to prepare for a very important lesson the following day. For his granddaughter, eight-year-old Domenica.
Andrés Zambrano, owner of La Guarida restaurant which houses a permanent Segovia art exhibition, kindly gave his time and skills as translator for this article. You can see the exhibition at La Guarida Monday through Friday from 9am to 1pm beginning August 30th – or schedule a private showing by calling 099 806 8071.
You can also see Eduardo Segovia’s studio and showroom at the artist’s home, on Vega Munoz 22-30 at Luis Pauta, Cuenca. Visits can be arranged by phone, at 282-4707.
Photos by John Keeble