Right Brain: Breckenridge snow sculptor seeks to surprise audience, inspire others
January 31, 2017
Friendly, outgoing and upbeat, Mauricio Meneses wears a smile that's contagious, and he hopes his artwork is too.
The 31-year-old, who emigrated from Guatemala to Breckenridge with his family years ago, has been passionate about his artwork for as long as he can remember. Starting with a paintbrush and learning to sculpt snow only about seven years ago, it's easy to see this lefty's right brain at work.
The funny thing is, Meneses said, it wasn't until he quit trying that his work really came to life.
On Saturday, the painter-turned-snow-sculptor volunteered his time and talent to help dozens of children — organizers counted 55 total — craft their own creatures made of snow during the second annual Main Street Station Junior Snow Sculpture event in Breckenridge.
The event coincided with the international championship down the street, and the young artists used hand tools to bring their imaginations to life, just like the seasoned sculptors, albeit on a much smaller scale.
What the young artists came up with was an impressive array of creatures: an otter, troll, owl, beaver and "Fred the dog," just to name a few.
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Afterward, I caught up with Meneses to talk about his art, his home and what inspires him.
Summit Daily News: Carving snow, how do you go from the block to the finished sculpture?
Mauricio Meneses: It really depends what am I working on. For example, for the Snowflake Challenge — when it is a contest — it really starts with making a clay model. That's a very important part. That gives you a good idea on dimensions because you're working at 360 degrees.
And doing the research on the story you want to tell, art is telling a story, basically. In order to create cohesive art and good art, you really have to research your subjects so you can project that story into a piece of art.
I always start by doing the research on what I want to sculpt and then execute the idea by turning it into a clay model. Once I'm satisfied with the clay model, I bring it to life in a snow block.
SDN: Is there one piece of work you've created that stands out in your mind?
MM: You want to hear something funny … I failed three years in a row (at the Snowflake Challenge) because I was just learning, getting a vibe for the medium. Finally, last year when they hosted the Snowflake Challenge, I got to place second place with an original design sculpture.
It was called "Love Music." It was a female body and, as you sculpt up, it turned into a guitar. It was a surrealistic piece. It was a tricky piece. … I really like to keep my audience intrigued. You know when people were looking at that sculpture, they could find a woman, a guitar.
That element of surprise, not really knowing what it is but it looks cool, I love that surprise factor and that's probably my favorite piece for that reason.
SDN: Did the finished sculpture turn out how you thought it would?
MM: I actually went through a lot of frustration when I started sculpting (this piece) because my block was located next to a fire pit, so the snow block started melting and moving to one side. So yeah, I was not happy when I started, but I was happy with the finished product."
SDN: Have you always been an artist?
MM: Well, depending how you define "an artist." I love making art, but my art was never very good. … I think, when you're starting to make art, you want to be different, you want to create a label and a signature on your art. But a lot of years went by, and I failed until the moment I stopped trying and started painting what I liked to paint. That's when I started becoming better and reaching an audience. And yeah, so I started when I was 12, but I started with my brand of art when I was 26, and I've been doing it since then.
SDN: Coming from Guatemala, it has to be very different in Breckenridge. How do you like living in Summit County?
MM: It's an inspiring place. From an artist's point of view, you can never go wrong anywhere you go in Summit County. The winter is a little harsh. I like skiing, not so much the cold part, but the summers are incredibly amazing.
I just grab my notepad, my sketchpad, my portable watercolor set, and anywhere you really walk in Breckenridge or anywhere in Summit County is inspiring. The flowers, the mountains in the background, everything is so green and alive it really inspires you. I think that's why I make art, and that's what inspires probably 90 percent of my art pieces.
SDN: Let's talk about (Saturday). What made you want to volunteer for this children's event?
MM: I was invited by Rocky Mountain Events to help them organize the kids' snow sculpture event. It's not a contest. I'm actually a volunteer, and … the most satisfying part is these kids are the next generation of artists if you think about it.
We have Team Breck that made the huge snow sculptures (for the international competition down the street), and all these kids are getting a feeling, a vibe, and they have a better idea, that when they look at the main snow sculptures, they will say, 'Oh, you know what, I understand how this works, and I can do it.'
So for me the most amazing part of this event is the ability to create dreams as a family and making it come alive step by step in snow. The results today were amazing and you see all the people happy and excited, that's probably the best prize you can get.