San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Heredia sculptor’s work finally comes home

From Rome to Heredia, a piece by famous Costa Rican sculptor Jiménez Deredia has traveled the world. Now it’s staying put in the sculptor’s hometown.

Deredia’s piece “Arriago,” or Roots, is on permanent display at Heredia’s Paseo de las Flores mall, north of San José. Originally exhibited in Florence, at the Palazio Pitti, and later in front of the Coliseum in Rome, Arriago is now permanently rooted in “la Ciudad de las Flores,” or the City of Flowers, as Heredia is affectionately known.

The massive sculpture was carved from a 50-ton block of white Carrara marble and represents a sitting woman whose gaze is fixed on the eastern horizon. She embraces a sphere, a “symbol of Costa Rica’s cultural identity,” Deredia said.

Arriago was part of a collection of 60 pieces that the artist exhibited in Rome during 2009.


Jiménez Deredia

Deredia was born in Heredia in 1954, and lived there until he turned 17. “I learned about the world through the coffee fields, about how raindrops fall, the smell of the earth, and I leaned that my destiny passed through those roots,” said the artist in Italian-accented Spanish, evidence of his 35 years of living in the Mediterranean country. “I wanted to give back a little to the city that has given me so much.”

Deredia left Costa Rica in 1976 for Italy on a study grant, and it was in Europe that he came into contact with different artists and artistic movements. After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara and attending the Faculty of Architecture at Florence University, Deredia began drawing inspiration from the mysterious stone spheres found throughout Costa Rica. The spheres developed greater meaning as he studied their shape, materials, symbolism and function. Those stone spheres would become a chief motif in his future work.

 Arriago remains faithful to a style that has marked Deredia’s work for most of his career: themes of maternity, rebirth, continuity and a circular idea of nature. “This work is a call to the meaning of the deep roots that identify my work and my people,” he said.

The arrival of Arraigo marks another period of growth for the burgeoning commercial district on Heredia’s south side. Paseo de la Flores, a popular shopping center, recently opened 116 new stories as part of a $41 million third-phase renovation. The mall now boasts a total of 341 stores, and together with neighboring Plaza Bratzi, is home to most of the shiny new development projects in the provincial capital.

While downtown Heredia is a hodgepodge of discount shoe stores, broken sidewalks and faded paint, the Paseo shines like a new pair of shoes. Luxury shops and high-end restaurants sit behind a secured perimeter, and the watchful eyes of 45 security guards (and 138 closed-circuit television cameras) make sure order prevails.

It is here that Arriago sits atop a fountain on a roundabout, amid a parking lot, looking towards a Universidad Latina campus. Advertisements for soft drinks, roasted chicken and cigarettes round out the surroundings. It may not be the same as Rome, but for Deredia, it’s home.

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