Tayo Heuser


Paw Sox Murals

In 1977, as he began his revitalization of the McCoy Stadium, Ben Mondor hired artist Tayo Heuser to paint mural portraits of the entire Pawtucket Red Sox team to decorate the walls of the storied but crumbling stadium. Recently graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, the murals were her first major commission. She recollects of the project, “I really didn’t know much about baseball, but what I do recall is that I started work in April and it was cold, so cold that the paint would freeze in the can.” Her first subject was famed left-fielder Jim Rice, with the rest of the team to follow in the year and a half it took to complete the murals.

With time, the walls of McCoy needed to be treated and sandblasted, a process that destroyed the original pieces. As a result, Heuser set to repainting each portrait on canvas, all of which now hang along the outside walls of the stadium alongside photographs of other players. Many artists would have been furious, but Heuser kept a positive attitude, stating that the second go “didn’t bother [her] because they came out better the second time.”

The daughter of a diplomat, Heuser was born in Washington, DC but lived most of her childhood in Africa, moving between Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, and the Ivory Coast. Eventually she returned to the US to study painting at the Rhode Island School of Design for her BFA and later received her MFA from Vermont College. She exhibits her work extensively across the United States and internationally.

Though she favors abstraction for its ability to express an invisible reality, Heuser’s work originally had its roots in figuration, as demonstrated in her PawSox portraits. Today she shifts between both, working figuratively in sculpture as a breather from the abstract drawings that represent the core of her artistic practice. Recently she has even come to meld the two, creating a series of sculptural drawings that hung in a year-long solo exhibition at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC from 2009 to 2010.

Todd Stong
Image courtesy of McCoy Stadium

Ben Mondor

When it was decided that a lasting memorial should be erected for Ben Mondor, champion of McCoy Stadium and the Pawtucket Red Sox who passed away in 2010, Tayo Heuser was an easy choice of artist. Having completed the 1977 murals commissioned by Mondor to help rejuvenate the stadium, Providence-based Heuser returned once more to the home of the PawSox to make physical the memory of the man who provided her a livelihood upon her graduation from RISD. The six foot tall sculpture is made entirely of bronze, cast at a foundry in Vermont from a clay sculpture created by Heuser in her Providence studio.  Though it represents Heuser’s first stab at life-size sculpture, the piece feels almost larger-than-life, embodying the personality of Ben Mondor who worked tirelessly to forge the Pawtucket Red Sox into one of the most respected Minor League brands in the country. At its unveiling in June 2012, the piece was praised universally for its likeness to Mondor.
“I knew Ben so well,” Heuser recalled, “I knew his spirit and his generosity, but he could also be powerful and strong. That’s why I have him holding a bat. I wanted that dichotomy the people who knew him would recognize.” The Mondor piece was the largest of these sculptures she has ever completed.

Todd Stong

Providence Journal



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