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Fabricating

Forging feathers

By Colin Linneweber

David Madero’s sculpture, La Fuerza del Espíritu, adorns Los Pinos

July 2016 - Vibrant contemporary architecture surrounds Los Pinos, the official Mexican presidential mansion, and is widespread across much of the surrounding Bosque de Chapultepec neighborhood in Mexico City. Among the remarkable sights and attractions gracing the high-altitude capital, David Madero’s sculpture, La Fuerza del Espíritu, remains distinctive. 

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The sculpture, translating to The Strength of our Spirit in English, is an adaptation of Mexico’s coat of arms. The sculpture, 27 ft. tall by 17 ft. wide, depicts a golden eagle perched atop a prickly, lifelike cactus. The eagle’s beak grasps a rattlesnake whose menacing fangs are clearly visible. The 40-year-old Madero, a Mexican-American who was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, says his work symbolizes “the victory of good over evil.” 

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Madero began sculpting the piece in September 2014 at his workshop in Torreón, México. One of the largest steel mills in Latin America, Altos Hornos de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. (Ahmsa), donated the necessary amount of low-carbon steel to Madero so he could complete such a detailed and complicated project. Madero used an oxyacetylene torch and plasma cutting processes to cut every one of the eagle’s steel feathers to size. With the help of assistants, Madero finished La Fuerza del Espíritu less than six months later in February 2015. 

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“We first fabricated a skeleton using steel beams and thick tubing that were powerful enough to hold the entire, 5-ton sculpture,” says Madero, who established his metal art business, MADERO/CO., in early 2013. 

“We then forged and welded together steel rods to make the sculptural form [the skin] of the eagle and snake. On top of the skin, we placed hundreds of handmade feathers made entirely of steel plate.”

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The smaller pieces were MIG welded and textured to look like the shafts and strands of real feathers. “The larger feathers took hundreds of hours of grinding to create such a realistic portrayal. The whole piece was then sealed with a specialized transparent paint.”

When completed, the artwork was trucked 500 miles southeast from Torreón to Mexico City., where the sculpture was installed directly in front of Los Pinos (The Pines). 

“My sculpture was chosen to be placed in front of Los Pinos to honor the service of every member of El Estado Mayor Presidencial (EMP). EMP is Mexico’s version of the U.S. Secret Service,” says Madero. “They protect and serve the president of Mexico.”

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Madero didn’t study sculpting in college or train in metalforming. Instead, Madero mastered the applicable crafts by carefully watching his late father, Rogelio Madero, work.

“I've had absolutely no formal art school training. I pretty much learned all about metal art from my dad,” who died in 2014 at age 78. “My dad was a brilliant sculptor who specialized in welding art. He was a pioneer in this particular art form, which he started to perfect in the 1950s.” 

Because he can manifest his visions so eloquently, Madero accepts a steady flow of commissions. He was recently hired by two prominent companies to fabricate sculptures for their office buildings. From Texas to the Mexican presidential mansion, David Madero says he hopes to leave a legacy “in this particular art form.” FFJ

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