Artist Moro takes shot at creating Celtic starSculpting helps former Windjammer athletic standout through 'struggles'
Rockport — Jon Moro has had a lifelong passion for sports, including playing and coaching. And now some of his most impressive and creative athletic visions come through in his artwork, namely wooden, life-size sculptures of professional sports figures.
In recent years, the 32-year-old Rockport resident, a former Camden-Rockport High School three-sport standout and multi-time Courier-Gazette athlete of the year, has developed his passion for art, especially sculpting.
His first life-size sculpture was of former Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. More recently, Moro has sculpted another New England sports icon, namely the "Big Ticket" or "KG," Boston Celtics forward/center Kevin Garnett.
Moro's latest wooden sculpture shows Garnett's upper torso, with his arms outstretched, and his eyes closed in deep contemplation. The latest sculpture can be found in the front window of Leslie Curtis Designs on Bayview Street in downtown Camden.
Moro, who still plays basketball and baseball (he also is an assistant coach for the Camden Hills Regional High School varsity baseball team and coaches basketball for the Penobscot Bay YMCA fifth- and sixth-grade level), has found a way to express himself through a combination of sports and art.
KG is Moro's second attempt at life-size sculpting, following the Garciaparra sculpture, which was purchased by Coastal Opportunities and housed in the "Olive Coates" building.
About 10 years ago, while taking a break from college, Moro started creating things out of wood in the barn at his home in Rockport. "Something really clicked internally at that point," he said. "That Christmas my dad got me a Dremel tool, which is perhaps the best Christmas gift I ever got (second only to the He-Man play set). My first attempts [at sculpting] took many months and were fairly rough, but I got a real satisfaction out of doing [the eight-inch tall figures]. The next step was to actually take an art class, which I did through the local adult education. All the while I just kept doing it, and there was one other thing that was consistent ... I loved portraying sports figures."
Thus began Moro's artistic journey. Art, especially sculpting, became an outlet, a sort of therapy for Moro.
"Throughout this time my life was somewhat tumultuous, I was really having some struggles, and the art was a great outlet," he said. "It provided me with a place to pour out my feelings. So things progressed, I eventually went back to school, but this time for art. I graduated last spring from the University of Maine in Augusta, and at that time finished the Nomar sculpture.
"To date, I have about 50 small figures under my belt. All of that repetition and experience gave me the patience and confidence to try something larger. So about February of this year I got the urge to try a basketball figure. I wanted something impressive. I casually brainstormed for a few weeks, and decided on KG. He has a wonderfully unique facial structure, but he also has an incredible spirit.
"At this time the Celts were jockeying for a playoff spot, and this provided a unique situation for me. I was creating this huge piece, often times with the Celtics playing in the background, and feeling the excitement, experiencing the flow of the game, and literally pouring that passion into the wood. I didn't have to summon the desire to keep on plugging at this thing, I just had to turn on the NBA on ABC on Sunday and I was ready to go at it."
Moro said he collected about 20 pictures for reference and had Taylor Hall, a member of the Windjammer baseball team, model for him. Although Hall is 6 foot 5 inches and Garnett 6-11, Moro was able to compensate for the height difference.
Moro said Hall was the tallest player on the baseball team, thus made a good model. "I put a Celtics' jersey on him and just had him spread his arms open as far as he could, with head tilted back. I took probably a dozen photos from above, profile, front, close in, far away. I was specifically looking for how the jersey curved and folded, and the basic shoulder structure. Obviously, Taylor's arms are considerably shorter than Kevin's, and I accounted for that, but I got what I was looking for with Taylor. He was a good sport."
Moro finished the Garnett piece in mid-June. He said the project took him about three months to complete.
But, ultimately, why Garnett? "While watching the Celtics this season I was impressed with the way Garnett plays, both at a physical and spiritual level," Moro said. "He is an aging veteran, but is a true warrior at heart. He also carries himself in a very regal way, and has a wonderfully unique facial structure. For these reasons I really wanted to capture him in an impressive pose"
The Garnett sculpture is 100 percent wood, about 50 percent basswood and 50 percent pine. "Although basswood is a premium carving wood, its grain is hardly noticeable, and not particularly interesting. I found that when stained, pine shows a visible grain that adds more to the final product. Thus, this piece gets more dynamic as the viewer closes in on the surface of the arms and face. It is a lot of fun to compare your hand and wingspan with that of an NBA legend."
Moro said he used wood stain on this project "so that the grain is visible below the surface, making the viewing experience a bit more dynamic."
If one looks closely at the sculpture, they will notice Garnett's eyes are closed. That was by design. "This was a conscious decision I made that I believe impacts the emotional impact on the viewer. Normally KG is a very fiery and demonstrative competitor; however, I wanted a likeness that would show more of an introverted focus. I wanted to show the warrior preparing for battle by summoning the strength of his ancestors, perhaps in a peaceful moment just before the contest starts."
Moro said as his artistic cycle continues, he will produce a number of smaller works (a handful are visible at Leslie Curtis Designs), "but I am sure that soon enough the urge to carve 'big' will stir once again."
And what about Moro's future in art, which focuses mainly on sculpting and painting? "As far as the future, I don't know yet. One of the fun parts about carving is seeing improvement as you do more and more of it. So I enjoy doing more challenging projects, and growing through the challenge."
Moro said he hopes to connect with Garnett to show him the sculpture.
Moro, who works part-time at Home Depot and Coastal Opportunities, said he also does commissions and can produce any athlete. To reach Moro, email him at email@example.com.
Courier Publications Sports Director Ken Waltz can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.