José Domínguez Carbajo, El Recreo (The Recreation/The Pastime)
Roales, Castile and León, 49192, Spain
About the Artist/Site
José Domínguez was born in the village of Montamarta, some seven miles (twelve kilometers) from Roales, one of five children of a livestock farmer who died when young José was only eight years old. He attended school in Montamarta until age fourteen, and afterwards, with no other option, began working in construction, building the roads. He soon married Resurrección—after seeing her while working on the road—and they moved to Roales, her natal village, after their marriage. They had four children and, at the time of my fieldwork in 2008, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The entire family lives near him in Roales.
Although he liked to draw as a child, Domínguez never studied or seriously practiced any kind of art as a young man. After his retirement from working on the roads, however, around the age of sixty-eight, as he bicycled each morning to work in the small garden down the road from his home—where he also keeps a few chickens and his pet peacock in order to help stave off any post-retirement boredom—he started to explore the idea of recreating images he saw in books or on television, as well as those that he drew from his imagination.
Domínguez’s small garden lies along the pilgrimage route leading toward Santiago de Compostela. Watching the trekkers with back-packs pass by daily, soon he began to adorn his garden with a series of brightly-painted sculptures featuring these pilgrims as well as assorted animals and figures from myth and legend. Most are full-size or larger. The suckling Romulus and Remus, a bare-breasted mermaid, and the snarling three-headed dog Cerberus share space with figures from numerous Biblical tales. Among the most compelling works are St. James galloping on a white horse, his robes flowing out behind him, and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Some of Domínguez’s figures are stolid or even rigid in form, whereas others invoke a certain fluidity and emotion; the animals are, in general, somewhat more lifelike than the human figures: although each face is sculpted separately and not molded, they share a somewhat vacant quality, despite the personalized details that identify them.
Although before his retirement he had never evinced any interest in the arts, Domínguez now feverishly works daily to create his retirement paradise, “El Recreo.” His vibrant works, placed on the side of the world-renowned Camino de Santiago, have connected him with the pilgrims heading toward Galicia, and have stretched his boundaries—figuratively as well as literally—to the world beyond.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
Roales, Castile and León, 49192 es
Latitude/Longitude: 41.551045 / -5.77739
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