El Trujal de Rincón de SotoCecilio Medrano Mendizábal (b. 1949)
37 Calle Cascajuelo , Rincón de Soto, La Rioja, 26550, es
About the Artist/Site
Rincón de Soto boasts the appellation of a special pear that is grown in its lush surrounds; this pear, along with a range of other fruits and vegetables, are the driving economic force of this village in the low rolling hills of La Rioja. Medrano’s father was a farmer, and after Cecilio finished elementary school around the age of 9, he began working with him in the fields. But by around the age of 22, he began chafing at the routine of the work, and because he always liked to make things, he decided to take correspondence courses to receive “diplomas” in a variety of vocations; along with 14 different driver’s licenses (motorcycles, large trucks, carts with trailers, cars, etc.) he is also an accomplished motor mechanic, welder, farmer, tree pruner, bee-keeper, fruit producer, and more (curiously, however, in light of his later efforts, when a correspondence course was offered in art, he wasn’t interested). So in 1982, on the ground floor of the house in which he, his wife Isabel, and son Miguel live, he opened a shop where he does mechanical repairs, changes tires, does forging/welding, completes electrical mounts and repairs, and accomplishes any other jobs that his neighbors bring to him. The house, which belonged to his wife’s family, is known as El Trujal (The Mill), as, beginning in 1819, this was where the olive harvest was pressed by huge millstones; he has taken the same name to describe himself and his business.
Medrano has transformed himself from the village jack-of-all-trades, a thriving business from which he retired around 2014, into the village sculptor; thrilled by this recognition, he is energized every day to keep creating. Discrete freestanding mixed media works of metal, stone, trencadís, and wood now adorn many corners and plazas of the village, as well as further afield locations including both interior and exterior sites at the Viñedas Real Rubio winery located in nearby Aldeanueva de Ebro. Too, he is a prolific painter, with some 400+ canvases and boards stacked in the hardware store/studio across the street from his house. Although one large painting stretches some 5 meters (16.4 feet) long, most are smaller explorations of both abstract and figurative forms.
But the star attraction is his home, El Trucal. He began to ornament the rear façade around 2012; more than a simple flat covering of tiles, this shimmering frontage includes found objects, plaques lettered with local proverbs, and bas-relief components to set off different areas and highlight the complexity of the composition. A background of trencadís ceramic, glass, and mirrors feature local and national symbols – the sun that accelerates the growth of the local pears and other crops, a reservoir, Roman wheels, a representation of a dinosaur bone that was found in a nearby deposit, a bull ring – cracked to show the ambivalence with which Spain is now viewing this historically-important event, plates used to hack apart the renowned suckling pig dish (so tender that they’re not cut with knives, but with the edges of simple ceramic plates), and more. The initials of the first names of his wife and son – as well as, in a smaller size, his own – fit organically into the whole, along with the name of his home/business, El Trucal. He pounds nails into the wall to support his constructions, allowing him to build out in three dimensions. There are no straight lines; he doesn’t like them, he says. Before beginning, he submitted his idea to the municipal offices, paid a fee, and then got to work. They have not bothered him since about this unusual surface treatment.
Above, a small terrace features vertical sculptures in mixed media as well as trencadís-covered mortar works that are connected to walls or the peripheral fence; too, there are additional trencadís murals on the walls; at the time of my visit there was one abstraction and one representing an agricultural scene with a farmer watering his fields. Higher still, the rooftop of a steeply-gabled building, a snowy mountainside, and the melting watch of Dalí, one of his favorite sculptors (along with Gaudí), cover the façade. Medrano freely mixes the abstract with the representational, seeing neither contradiction nor inconsistency; he works confidently, master of his materials, balancing colors and forms so that the work avoids discordancy or dissonance.
The interior of the house is likewise ornamented, with his paintings, sculptures, and trencadís murals, and also with his extensive collection of swords of all kinds. His son, Miguel, helps him with the trencadís work inside and out, as he has the patience for affixing the tiny shards, but Medrano himself is clearly the chief designer and driving force for the decoration of their spaces. He’ll never stop working, he says, and he even has his eye on the vacant property next door, now owned by his sister-in-law. If she would sell it to him, he says, he already has ideas about the complex and appealing trencadís façade he will create.
The front of the building, with the primary entrance to the house and the shop, is on the Camino de Santiago, so numerous pilgrims often pass. So that they won’t miss the complex trencadís façade, a small plaque on that side directs people to the rear, and a small monitor hung above the front door loops through images of the interior of the house, to ensure that if Medrano is not at home to showcase his works, passersby will still be able to view at least some of its wonders. Most of the trencadís work on the various levels is clearly visible from the street, and most of the freestanding sculptures around town are also located in easily accessible public areas. And if Medrano is at home, it is likely that he will gladly show and explain to visitors his work.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
37 Calle Cascajuelo
Rincón de Soto, La Rioja, 26550 es
Latitude/Longitude: 42.2337632 / -1.8494199
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