Art serves many purposes: to beautify, to commemorate, to make a statement, to communicate. Costa Rica’s Edgar Zúñiga accomplishes it all, and his work is now seen in countries and collections around the world.
At this moment he is waiting to hear from the sponsors of an international sculpture competition in Ube, Japan, where his work, “Columns for Thought,” was one of 15 finalists among 500 presented sculptures. Winners will be announced in September, and all finalists’ works will be on permanent display in the city’s sculpture park.
Zúñiga’s entry consists of five iron columns representing wisdom; communication between the earth and the cosmos; the liberation of tension to prevent conflict; the defiance of gravity to face the challenge of using technology within the limits of nature; and the search for the light for the survival of all living things.
Zúñiga’s work is well known in Costa Rica because he has created “practical” statuary such as the monument to the firefighters in front of the firefighting academy and the monument to water in front of the National Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) building in the western San José district of Pavas; the three sculptures on the center strip of the General Cañas Highway leading into Alajuela, northwest of the capital; the iron and cement tribute to the boyero and oxcart next to the church in the coffee town of San Ramón, on the western edge of the Central Valley; the seven-meter-high fiberglass statue of the Risen Christ in the church of Ciudad Colón, southwest of San José; and the bronze street sweeper that intrigues passersby on the north side of downtown San José’s Central Park.
Outside of Costa Rica, the artist’s works include paintings and sculptures in wood, marble, bronze, concrete and fiberglass, as well as ice and snow, for which he has won awards in the Canadian province of Quebec and the U.S. city of Milwaukee, even though he had never even seen snow before.
Proclaiming himself self-taught, Zúñiga’s work can be seen in parks and plazas and collections throughout Europe, South America, the United States and Asia. In 1994, Costa Rican President José María Figueres presented a stylistic bronze work by Zúñiga to Pope John Paul II for the Vatican.
Zúñiga was born in 1950 in Alajuela and grew up with art in the same location where he now has his workshop and showroom. His father, Manuel Zúñiga, had his studio here, working mostly with religious art. His mother, Consuela Jiménez de Sandoval, had her own workshop on the property behind Manuel’s, where she specialized in Nativity figures (the shop is now run by Zúñiga’s sister).
Though Zúñiga loved to draw as a child, he had no special art training except learning from his father. At 16, he began working on his own, mostly doing religious pieces, but he liked to experiment with new ideas and techniques; thus, his work ranges from traditional to contemporary free-flowing sculpture in wood, marble, steel, concrete, fiberglass, bronze and blends of materials.
He says he loves to try out new processes and procedures, which he describes as a selftaught, constant learning process.
More recently, Zúñiga has been digging into the past with faces carved into wooden beams and roof supports of old houses.
Some of the faces are familiar, such as those of his mother and father. Others just come to him. He says they represent the lives of the past, contemporaries of those who once lived in the houses.
At present, he is working on marble from the altar of the old church in the mountain town of Puriscal, southwest of the capital, which was damaged in an earthquake. Though the piece has yet to take shape, the marble contains the pleas and prayers of all the people who prayed in the church, Zúñiga says, likening the work to liberating and viewing the past.
Open daily, Zúñiga’s workshop and showroom are on the west side of Alajuela, one street south of the road to Barrio San José, behind the shop of Consuela Sandoval, or 50 meters west of Cristo Rey Park, which boasts Zúñiga’s statue of Christ on the corner. Many of his pieces are for sale for homes, gardens, businesses or public buildings. Browse and meet the artist by appointment by calling 441-6520.