Noah’s ArkHorace Diaz (1928-2013)
Lodève, Languedoc-Roussillon, 34700, France
About the Artist/Site
As a ten-year-old boy in 1938, Horace Diaz fled to France from the Vélez-Malaga area in Andalucía of his native Spain to escape the terrors of the Spanish Civil War. Unfortunately, after they arrived as refugees, the family was duped by an unscrupulous boss who made the entire family work for him, while only paying the father. Staying in France after this difficult time, he later he worked as an apprentice with stone, doing well and receiving his diploma. Around age twenty, he moved to Lodève, where he met his future wife, Josette; he decided to remain there permanently, and began a masonry business, building houses and other construction projects around the area. He and Josette had three children.
After having concluded the construction of a house for one of his clients, he was asked if he would add a garden next to the building, and include a garden ornament as well. Other clients also asked him to make a barbecue or a flowerpot or a fountain; he even constructed a crocodile to perch on the side of a swimming pool. He estimated that over time he created around thirty garden sculptures for different clients in several villages around the area. He was so pleased with his works that he decided to continue to create sculptures for himself, and began doing so on a piece of property that he purchased in the industrial area of Lodève. There, for the next several decades, Diaz created more than 400 animals, built on a steel infrastructure and then covered in concrete, most roughly full scale—although a giraffe seems to have been significantly bigger than life, with his extended neck reaching to the sky. Some of the works were painted (a white polar bear and cub, brown-tinted concrete for the lion, etc.), and, as necessary, he textured the surfaces to reference the turtle’s shell, the elephant’s rough skin, and the giraffe’s spots. Dolphins, elks, a mammoth, dinosaurs, and a camel shared space with more locally-native horses, chickens, pigs, dogs, and other domesticated animals; a veritable Noah’s Ark of creatures. A few figurative pieces—a mermaid, and a mason with hammer and chisel (perhaps a self-portrait)—also complemented more standard garden ornaments such as flowerpots, birdbaths, and garden furniture—even these latter created in concrete and then ornamented with impressed stones that he would gather from the beaches.
Diaz also created and decorated the furniture within the house attached to his garden in the industrial area of Lodève (although he never lived in this house); as with his garden furniture, most of these interior pieces were also covered in concrete and decorated with the smooth stones of the beaches. He likewise built and ornamented the furniture in his small house in town.
Diaz’s works became widely known in the area, and in 2009 one of his pieces was included in a local exhibition of plein-air sculpture. Tiring as he aged, he stopped creating his animals about two years prior to his death, but began making baskets, which he would sell to visitors. Following his death, however, many of the sculptures were either given away or sold very cheaply to private collectors; a few pieces were also acquired by the museum in Montpellier. The site where his sculptures were installed was resold by the family, and none of Diaz’s works remain there, so the art environment is no longer extant.
~Jo Farb Hernández, 2014
Map & Site Information
Lodève, Languedoc-Roussillon, 34700 fr
Latitude/Longitude: 43.73366 / 3.313975
Conilhac-Corbières (near Lézignan) Aude
Peyriac de Mer (Aude)