Fountain of the Four Winds
Enrico Alferez, circa 1937
This extraordinary sculpture and fountain depicting the Four Winds was designed and created by Enrique Alférez in 1936-37 for what was then called the Shushan Airport (later renamed Lakefront Airport). Funded by the 1936 Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Four Winds Fountain is a testament to the nation's recovery efforts after the Great Depression. It was and is also a magnificent work of art, which Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport intends to see restored.
Alférez, who served as director of the sculpture program for New Orleans WPA artists, also created the splendid bas-reliefs recently uncovered and restored in the airport's Terminal building. He was born in Mexico in 1901, trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, and came to New Orleans in 1929, dying here in 1999. He is survived today by his daughter, Dr. Tlaloc S. Alferez, who retains much of his work in her private collection.
The four nude figures stirred controversy in the 1930s; in fact, Alférez is said to have stood guard at night with a rifle in order to protect the sculpture from vandalism. Ultimately, Eleanor Roosevelt intervened and demanded the sculpture remain as Alférez created it. All but the North Wind figures are women. Alferez' daughter explained that when her father was 12 years old, he joined Pancho Villa's revolutionary army and gathered wood and water for the women who fed the soldiers and who often joined in the fighting -- women who, he said, were the real backbone of the Mexican Revolution.
"Alferez’s sculptures are elegantly simplified in the extreme; they are examples of Renaissance anatomy blended with rocket ship aerodynamics. Despite the abundant stylishness, they are never self-indulgent. Alferez obviously wanted us to perfectly understand his intentions. His daughter said he had no respect for art that required a lot of explanation.
Art changes. Tastes change. A decade into the 21st century, Alferez’s sculpture has achieved a certain timelessness.
"...even now, the unmistakable symbolic and sexual energy of the scene is still as stirring as, well, the wind.The artist’s passion and audacity still shine through the mineral deposits, weeds and wasp nests that add a patina of age to the dry fountain..."
Enjoy the photos below, and stay tuned for Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport's next fundraiser to restore the Fountain of the Four Winds!
- Fountain of the Four Winds (North Wind) Fountain of the Four Winds (North Wind)
- Fountain of the Four Winds (East Wind) Fountain of the Four Winds (East Wind)
- Fountain of the Four Winds (South Wind) Fountain of the Four Winds (South Wind)
- Fountain of the Four Winds (West Wind) Fountain of the Four Winds (West Wind)
- Fountain of the Four Winds -- 1938 Fountain of the Four Winds -- 1938
- Fountain of the Four Winds -- 2014 Fountain of the Four Winds -- 2014