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El Águila

On April 18th of this year, El Águila, a sculpture by Bolek Ryziński, was unveiled in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Cervantes Street. It was a joyful occasion, shared by a large circle of friends, celebrating art, the creator’s birthday and the city, his adopted home.

I flew to San Juan to spend my friend's  birthday with him, to see the completed sculpture, The Eagle, and to present two short movies.

Bolek Ryziński, Olga Szulc & Victor Hernandez.

The event kicked off with grandeur, quite literally – Bolek's arrival was heralded to a room brimming with eager guests by the melodic strains of Victor Hernandez's saxophone. Then, the artist beckoned everyone outside, where the sculpture awaited, concealed beneath two enormous canvases.

Anticipation reached its peak. Following a concise introduction by the event host, Yolanda Torres Cuesta, Bolek and Lukasz unveiled the sculpture.

A hush fell over us all as El Águila came into view, gleaming in the evening light. The remarkable harmony with the nearby ocean and the expansive sky above filled me with awe.

El Águila

Then, the saxophone echoed through the air. It was Victor, visibly moved, who delivered an improvisation dedicated to the unveiled artwork.

El Águila is Bolek's second public sculpture in San Juan.

"On January 8, 2022, I begun three months long Public Art project in San Juan’s Parque Central. Using the chain saw I was carving a 10’ tall Mahogany (Caoba) tree trunk at an area between two highway ramps with heavy on-going traffic.” B.R.


The trunk used to create El Águila came from a native tree known locally as 'Maria'. Ironically, this tree was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. The 200-year history of the tree is reflected in its shapes. This aspect serves as a guiding force for the artist during the sculpting process. In Bolek's own words: "The tree endured so much, which I could see marked when I was carving it into a sculpture. When asked about the inspiration for my sculpture, I often mention 'the life story of the tree.' It's as if I'm chronicling its biography. Throughout its lifespan, the tree gradually turned almost 90 degrees to the left, as if in a slow dance, which I hope I have now made visible."

The Maria trunk, like Caoba, was debarked first, then sculpted with a chainsaw, finally painted several times.

Bolek worked on the artwork for three hot San Juan’s months. After working on the sculpture, he found a respite by swimming in the nearby ocean.

At the event, two video productions made their debut. The first short film, crafted by me using materials supplied by the artist, and accompanied by the music of Tito Puente, vividly portrays the meticulous process of sculpting Águila.

Águila, movie by Olga Szulc

The second piece was brought to life through the artistic collaboration of the duo BOLAG (Bolek Ryziński and Olga Szulc) with the composer from New York City, Jakub Polaczyk.

You can watch it here.

A silent auction featuring other sculptures by Bolek was held, with all proceeds benefiting the Caoba Foundation, represented by Viviane Negron. Established by the artist, the foundation supports young artistic talents from Puerto Rico.

DJ Amanda and DJ Aleksander set the mood for dancing, energizing the crowd with their beats. As dusk settled in, the jazz quartet led by Ricky Encarnación took the stage, filling the air with captivating melodies and rhythms. I loved the music. People were dancing and talking. Bolek and I even tried to sing with the band. The evening on Cervantes Street was a rich tapestry of experiences, stretching into the night and leaving a sense of fulfillment in its wake.

Photos from the event by Nichole Saldarriaga

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