San Antonio sculptor Antonio Medina created local landmarks such as Sea Island’s Jolly Jack, Fox Tech’s Buffalo, and Karam’s Restaurant Warriors

0

In the 1980s, when Marc Dominguez and Tony Flores were students at MacArthur High School, cousins ​​often told their classmates that their grandfather had created the giant face of General Douglas MacArthur who watched over the student body.

“And they wouldn’t believe us,” said Dominguez, now a San Antonio real estate broker.

Believe it. Not only did their grandfather Antonio Medina make this 7-by-14 plaque of the Chief of the Armed Forces, but he was also responsible for some of San Antonio’s most memorable sculptures from the past and present.

During her roughly 40 years in San Antonio, Medina carved memorable ancient works such as the Mayan-style statues at the former Mexican restaurant Karam’s on North Zarzamora Street and the Greek statues of the Four Seasons that adorned the indoor fountain. of the old Central Park Mall. .

No wonder Dominguez and Flores say their grandfather, who died in Mexico in 1993, was San Antonio’s most famous sculptor that no one has ever heard of.

“I mean he was probably one of the most well-known ‘unknown’ artists,” Dominguez said. “He was one of the artists who made the little things special around San Antonio and brought character to the city.”

“It’s really nostalgic for other people,” said Flores, a San Antonio real estate agent. “People talk about memories of things like that. I think it’s really (dear) to me that he was a part of it, although you don’t really see his name on these things.

The original 1965 statue of Jolly Jack still shows her take outside the Sea Island Shrimp House behind the North Star Mall. The statue was the work of Antonio Medina.

Mike Sutter / Staff

Medina first made a name for himself in Mexico in the 1930s. In a 1973 article on San Antonio Light, the Jalisco-born artist said he learned his trade the hard way working for virtually free. a sculptor in La Barca, Jalisco, so that he could attend a school for stone craftsmen there.

Soon Medina was making ornate stone work in Guadalajara and Monterrey. Then in 1950 he moved to San Antonio and worked at Redondo Manufacturing, a producer of architectural precast concrete at Converse that has been around since 1910.

In the 1950s, Redondo operated in San Antonio on West Poplar Street. In 1954, Medina was “the business leader of a group of three model makers,” according to a Light article that year. Medina then set up her own boutique just west of downtown on North San Marcos Street.

One of the first great works of Medina in San Antonio was its statue of Jolly Jack. Sea Island business partner Henry Reed came up with the idea for the galley boy character. The sculpture of Medina was a realistic figure, which later became more caricature when it was repainted.

Medina’s next major work appeared a few years later, right next door. When Central Park Mall opened in 1968, the new mall across from the North Star Mall featured a magnificent fountain on the ground floor with a statue of a Greek goddess depicting spring. The statues for summer, fall and winter came later.

“He made all of these statues just by looking at a photo,” his daughter Laura Medina said. “He was a master at what he did.”

A 28-horsepower carousel replaced the Central Park fountain in 1991, and the mall closed in 2001.

A Jolly Jack bowl sculpted by Antonio Medina.  The late artist created the famous Jolly Jack statue outside the original Sea Island location, behind the North Star Mall, along with other memorable statues around San Antonio.

A Jolly Jack bowl sculpted by Antonio Medina. The late artist created the famous Jolly Jack statue outside the original Sea Island location, behind the North Star Mall, along with other memorable statues around San Antonio.

Courtesy of Tony Flores

Perhaps the best-known work of Medina as they stood were the statues of Mesoamerican warriors who guarded the so-called “Mayan garden” at Karam’s house.

Medina originally designed the statues in 1973 for La Piramede, a restaurant and museum planned for the north side of town. He based the figures on those from the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl in Tula, Mexico. The Piramede never opened, but Ralph Karam recovered the statues from the West Side restaurant he founded with his wife Joséphine in 1946.

The statues of Medina were in the spotlight at Karam’s. As well as appearing in countless family photos, they also appear in the 1997 movie “Selena” starring Jennifer Lopez.

After Karam closed in 2008, most of the statues were stored at the Land Heritage Institute, a conservation museum in San Antonio, although one is in downtown Hemisfair.

Medina did well into her sixties, sculpting just about anything from statutes to birdbaths, in her usual work uniform of khakis and a white t-shirt. Dominguez said he also still sees his grandfather’s work on the old beam-and-beam houses in San Antonio that carry Medina’s decorative concrete vents.

Dominguez believes Medina retired in the late 1980s shortly after remarrying. He then returned to Mexico, where he died in 1993 at the age of 81.

Featured here in 1985, the original lower-level water fountain at Central Park Mall featured Greek-style representations of the Four Seasons by sculptor Antonio Medina.

Featured here in 1985, the original lower-level water fountain at Central Park Mall featured Greek-style representations of the Four Seasons by sculptor Antonio Medina.

Staff archive photo

Flores said he still remembers running around the Medina studio as a kid in the 1970s and seeing this buffalo that ended up at Fox Tech. His grandfather’s carvings undoubtedly remind other San Antonians of their childhood, he added, including the thousands of MacArthur graduates like him who literally admired his work throughout high school.

Now Flores is hoping that more people will know about Medina’s name as well as her work.

“He wasn’t the kind of person who would put himself in the spotlight,” said Flores. “But just knowing that he was able to do these very different types of artwork and for him to have his name would be great.”

[email protected] | Twitter: @reneguz

Share.

Comments are closed.