Text: Denise Nelson Prieto | Photo: Alex Durán
El Paso artist Ho Baron is a truly unique human being. His personality is complex and richly layered; I gathered this by only spending a couple of hours with him recently one cool October morning.
Upon entering his domain I was enthralled by his work—including “The Water God” and “Head Games”—and of course his canine companions Zion and Dolly. Baron has a distinctly singular creative vision, as evident by the troves of completed works, as well as the tools and components that make up his arsenal. Rendered doll parts, roots of desert plants, silicon and vinyl spackling are some of the items in Baron’s bag of tricks.
He strikes me as a young soul, with a gleam of wonder and mischief in his eyes, which defy his nearly 8 decades on the planet. His is a world filled with questioning and commentary on the issues of the day, and deeper still, his view on what it means to be a human in this crazy world.
“Eccentric” is too shallow a word to capture Baron’s character, but will have to suffice. A true citizen of the world, he’s lived in and traveled to places like Belgium, Nigeria and Ethiopia and about 40 other countries.
Baon has been in the Peace Corps, worked as a librarian and even manned the counter at his family’s business, Dave’s Loans ( the place downtown with the full-sized Elvis out front). He even had a show on KTEP several years ago. “The Music of Ho World” exposed the listening public to experimental and eclectic electronic music from around the globe. In fact, most of those albums occupy the shelves in his living room, along with a dusty collection of books that span a wide array of topics.
He holds Masters degrees in Library Science and English, and has even published a book titled Gods For Future Religions. Indeed, he’s created “Gods”—with an overarching theme that expresses the Jungian archetypes, thus erecting new cosmogonic and mythological stories.
Baron is a conduit for capturing our common experience, our dreams and our darkest desires and assimilating them through a sensual experience that is raw and invigorating.
His bronze sculptures can be seen around town. Check out “One” at the El Paso Museum of Art. It is actually a dual depiction that, through the inclusion of a penis on one side and a vagina on the other, reveals wholeness and unity.
The “unified” male and female idea is a common theme in Baron’s work. In fact in the introduction to his book he wrote:
“I say the artist is that great mother goddess of nature and the great spirit father all in one. Today’s large quantity of proclaimed artists, both male and female corresponds with and reflects this change. He-she is patriarchal and matriarchal since he-she embodies both human and artistic sensitivity, and his-her creativity is pure and childlike.”
He further explained:
“. . . all humanity is male/female/child. Therefore I visually depict the three as one in my figurative forms, most easily recognizable by placing male and female genitals on opposite sides of my figures.”
Other Baron public art works around town include the Main Public Library and the El Paso Museum of Archaeology.
Unfortunately it seems Baron’s immense talent and rich imagination are enjoyed by a limited few who come through his studio or who can appreciate the message in his works. “I can’t sell these sculptures in El Paso,” he said. “But most artists have a big body of work they haven’t sold.”
He’s graciously opened his home every Saturday, 12—5 PM at 2830 Aurora Ave. to the public to enjoy his creations, many of which display other common sights in his works. Exaggerated bulging eyes, extended tongues and various other organs are found on a number of the sculptures.
For Baron, part of the reason for his prolific use of body parts is obvious. “We can all relate to [the sculptures] because we all have fingers, faces, tits, asses,” he revealed.
One can mingle with the “Doppleganger” and the “Post Nuclear Dog” in his sculpture garden and studio. You can gaze upon his baby doll and wood assemblages he’s transitioned to. His early works in this area are a clever combination of computer mother boards and Barbie/dinosaur hybrids that immediately bring to mind the creations of Sid Phillips from Toy Story and some permanent residents of The Island of Misfit Toys.”
His vast body of work includes more than 500 drawings, 300 bronze, stone and cast resin sculptures (including reproductions) and 90 assemblages. “I’ve spent about a half million dollars on sculptures over the years,” he said. “But that’s my satisfaction—making art.”
He nonchalantly revealed due to his age—“I’m old” as he repeats a few times—he’s had to switch formats from sculpture to his doll/desert plant assemblages. He also admits his art, which he terms “abstract figurative,” is a tough sell in this market. “The creative arts are tough, and you do it because you want to, not to sell it.”