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Nod to Bible story: Artist Moro sculpts epic 'David and Goliath' battle

Full reveal of wooden figures moved to Oct. 18 at Barnswallow Books
By Ken Waltz | Oct 06, 2020
Courtesy of: Teresa Picarri Goliath and artist Jon Moro face off.

Rockport — During his 40 years of life, Jon Moro has used a variety of methods to express his feelings, attitude, personality and vision.

As a youngster, he did that through sports, namely as a standout student-athlete in soccer, basketball and baseball.

As an adult, he has communicated through teaching and coaching children, as well as using his deft, patient, artistic touch and ability to create something out of nothing.

Well, not nothing, but something. Such as a block of wood. But while most see a block of wood, Moro sees potential. He has the ability to bring an inanimate object, such as a block of wood, to life.

To give that block of wood subtle movement. Personality. Character. Meaning.

The longtime area youth athletic leader has created a handful of sports sculptures in the past, including Boston Red Sox Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett (a piece that resides at Rivalries sports bar in Falmouth) and New York Yankee Yogi Berra.

But this time, after years of dedication and attention to detail, in which the artist again has transformed wood into life, the Rockport resident will unveil his "David and Goliath" sculptures in an outdoor exhibit on Sunday, Oct. 18 from 2 to 4 p.m. (change from the previous day) at Barnswallow Books in Rockport Village.

The free, outdoor and family-friendly event will be Centers for Disease Control COVID-compliant, requiring masks and seating will be distanced accordingly. Fall refreshments will be served.

“It is important for me to present this work in my hometown, in a community venue, particularly during the coronavirus era when we are all faced with challenges and fear of the unknown," Moro said. "It will be good to gather as a community, before the seasonal shifts call us indoors."

Moro said he started the "David and Goliath" project three years ago when he was gifted a large piece of basswood, which measured 8 feet long, 1 foot deep and 8 inches wide. “That piece became his left leg, and ran up through his torso, forming a solid base. ... the rest of the wood I ordered in smaller blocks. I then laminated them together as I went along, attaching with hidden pegs and hidden screws,” he said.

"I decided that this piece of wood should be the strong point of a large-scale sculpture, different from my smaller pieces that are typically between 14 to 25 inches tall," he said, adding he had done large pieces before, but this was a departure from the sports theme.

"This piece features Goliath and David, running at each other in the midst of battle. Goliath is wielding a large spear and shield, and David has a stone in his sling, a few moments before letting it fly toward Goliath's head," Moro said.

In the end, after Moro's artistic handiwork, Goliath stands 5 feet 5 inches in height and David 3 feet 2 inches.

"I have always loved the story of 'David and Goliath' in the Bible, and I found that the story intersects with being a coach," Moro said. "We all love an underdog. I think of the movies, 'Rudy' and 'Rocky,' of the 1980 USA hockey team versus USSR, among countless others. In high school I was on a soccer team that entered the playoffs ranked eighth, and knocked off a No. 1 seed, and it was an incredible memory.

"What is the lesson for athletes and coaches? Simply this: that appearances don't tell the whole story. Just because an opponent is physically impressive, because they 'all can dunk,' because they are undefeated, it does not mean that victory cannot be achieved. Also, when an underdog wins, it's never a lucky event. Preparation is key, heart and determination are essential.

"But belief is what carries the day. Belief that anything can happen on any given day. I've seen the body language of an intimidated team, who has essentially lost before the match has begun, as well as the confidence of a team that knows it is greater than the sum of its parts. How one approaches this scenario is a life lesson. How do any of us react to 'Goliaths' in life? The big, scary fear that holds us from taking big risks is often just fear. Don't discount what you have inside of you. Whatever dreams you have, pursue them aggressively, regardless of the odds. The sweetest victories are won through confronting great opposition."

Moro, who also has sculpted large pieces on Boston Celtic Larry Bird, New England Patriot Tom Brady and baseball greats Jackie Robinson and Micky Mantle, has carved wood for 20 years, and particularly enjoys sculpting the human body in motion.

But what does it take to be a good sculptor?

"The 'David and Goliath' piece is the summation of 20 years of trying," Moro said. "Part of it is knowing your medium — how it behaves, how to shape it. Part of it is developing a process that leads to a polished piece (tools used, stains, sandpaper, etc). And lastly, in my case, understanding how the human body looks. The human body is very hard to shape, and although I've done over 100 pieces (most are figure size), getting a sculpture to be totally anatomically accurate is going to be truly a life-long pursuit.

"I think the key element for me is the 'seeing.' Recognizing when a part of the piece looks wrong, and when it is finally right. Again, that's a product of lots of trials … There's definitely a link between the hand and the eye. Early on in my years carving wood, I would run my dremel for a few seconds … then stare at the piece for five minutes, trying not to screw it up. These days, the 'seeing,' 'shaping' and 'evaluating' happen much more quickly and I can move more decisively."

And does Moro have a secret technique? "Let it rest. If I'm working on an element that gives me trouble — like thumbs! Not sure why but they are always tough to carve — I just put it down and walk away. Better to come back to it later in the day, than to plow ahead and do something I'll regret."

Like anyone doing a job or activity, Moro admits he makes mistakes. Many of them, but that has not stopped him from picking himself up, figuring out how to solve the problem and move forward.

"In 20 years I've messed up in so many ways ... taking off too much wood, not enough wood, overworking something, having the piece break or fall apart," he said. "I still mess up. But my process of planning the project and measuring it have made the mistakes smaller. Additionally, the 'accidents' sometimes turn into creative solutions that I wouldn't have ever thought of before. Serendipitous!"

He said a three-year project such as "David and Goliath" can be exhausting, but, ultimately, extremely rewarding.

"At times it felt really long, an exercise in delayed gratification," he said. "But the slowness allowed the best ideas to germinate. There were several elements of "David and Goliath" that were different from the way I'd originally planned it out, because I either changed my mind or came up with a better idea.

"I'm sure it's like training and running a marathon … at the end, you are glad it's over; the hours, the struggle you went through. You finish … but a few days later, you are already missing the process."

Moro’s work is represented by Leslie Curtis Designs in Camden. His work can be found at that Bayview Street establishment in Camden.

Moro's work also can be seen at his website, on Facebook at Jon Moro, and Instagram at Jmoroart. His work can be found in private collections around the country, as well as the National College Athletic Association Hall of Champions art gallery in Indianapolis, Ind.

Moro is an ed tech at Camden Hills Regional High School and has coached baseball, soccer and basketball at youth levels and subvarsity levels, and currently is the Windjammer boys varsity basketball coach.

As a teenager at Camden-Rockport High School, he was a two-time Courier-Gazette schoolboy athlete of the year as a standout leader and participant in baseball, basketball and soccer. His 1999 Windjammer hoop team won the state Class B crown. He also played baseball and basketball at Colby College in Waterville, and graduated from University of Maine at Augusta with a degree in art.

On Oct. 17, the artist’s outdoor "BarnTalk" will focus on his three-year journey creating "David and Goliath." He will talk about how his sculptures are unique from other representations of the duo, and specific artistic decisions he made crafting them.

The sculptures are representative of Moro’s faith and his passion for sports and warriors. His work conveys his love of the human body in motion.

Following his "BarnTalk," Moro will do a question-and-answer session on his work, and photo opportunities with "David and Goliath," for attendees and the artist, will be encouraged.

Several recent sculptures by the artist will be displayed. The public will be invited to view, a few people at a time, while masked.

Barnswallow Books, at 166 Russell Avenue, is an independent, curated shop owned by Linda Lesher. It also is a platform to celebrate arts in the Midcoast, through "BarnTalks" and live performances.

“We’re happy to host this exhibit for Jon’s newest work," Lesher said. "It’s the perfect opportunity for Barnswallow Books to do what it was created to do, highlight arts and literature in our community."

Rockport artist Jon Moro. (Courtesy of: Patrisha McLean)
David's belt and pouch. (Courtesy of: Jon Moro)
Goliath's helmet. (Courtesy of: Jon Moro)
Goliath's sword. (Photo by: Jon Moro)
Goliath's spear and shield. (Courtesy of: Jon Moro)
Goliath and artist Jon Moro. (Courtesy of: Teresa Picarri)
Goliath and artist Jon Moro. (Courtesy of: Teresa Picarri)
Goliath's back. (Courtesy of: Jon Moro)
Goliath. (Courtesy of: Jon Moro)
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