Les Jozsa’s latest wood carving to Pecs
September 6th, 2010
Leslie Jozsa, one of the original Sopron-UBC forestry graduates - who had spent his working life as a forestry research scientist in BC before retiring to pursue his passion, wood carving – is off to one of this year’s three designated European Cities of Culture, Pecs. Les (or Laci as he is known to friends) had been commissioned by the City of Seattle to do a West Coast carving to be donated to Seattle’s sister city Pecs on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities. The unveiling will take place in Pecs on September 23rd and will be attended by the US ambassador, H.E. Eleni Tsakopoulos as well as City of Pecs officials and a representative of the Canadian embassy.
Les designed the carving that looks both like a totem pole and a Hungarian memorial carving called a “kopjafa” with motifs that are symbolic of the Pacific Northwest coast (salmon and a blue heron), as had been requested in the commission. Here is his description of the project:
"Seattle (USA) and Pécs(Hungary) are sister cities, and they are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year (2010). Because Pécs was named the cultural capital of Europe, their American friends wanted to dedicate a gift to the Hungarians. The President of the Seattle Sister City Organization is of Hungarian origin, and the fact that she had purchased a number of my woodcarvings over the years, she asked me if I would accept a commission to carve a suitable gift for the anniversary celebration. She also asked if I could "do something different”, not my usual Hungarian style folk-art, but something that would remind the viewer of Seattle and/or the Pacific Northwest. I accepted the commission, in spite of the challenge, and knowing that they had limited funds as well. Being somewhat familiar with First Nation art and their folklore, where animals play a dominant feature, I chose the salmon motif. The Pacific Northwest Coast Indian tribes admired the life-cycle of the salmon, their staple food item. They observed that the salmon return “home” in great numbers from the ocean at the end of their life-cycle, usually to a creek or a small brook. After spawning and fertilization, the parents die, but soon after the fish eggs hatch, initiating the next cycle, whereby the small fish (fry) swim out to sea. In a few years they return fully grown, to the very same spot where they were born. This is why I chose the salmon, as they reminded me of the Hungarians who had left their homeland, but they do return home, even if only in spirit. I imitated the First Nations carving style as much as I could, since this was my first attempt. The original prototype that I saw was at Vancouver’s Granville Island, where the carved salmon were over 2 meters long. I picked western red cedar (Thujaplicata) for my carving stock, because the wood of this tree had played a vital role in their existence. The great blue heron on top of the ceremonial post is the city-bird of Seattle. The “punch line”; a Hungarian Canadian, a Sopron Forestry Alumnus carved this American gift for the city of Pécs, from a Canadian wood from the Queen Charlotte Islands, in Vancouver, in 2010. Because my salmon could not swim, I had to ship them by air to Hungary." (L. Józsa)
Below are close-ups and work in progress in his beautiful backyard in Vancouver full of other sculptures.
Les designed and carved the “kopjafa” for the Ottawa 1956 refugee monument on the National Capital Commission’s Maple Island near the Foreign Affairs Building on Sussex Drive – see our webpage on it here: www.hungarianpresence.ca/Anniversary/ monument.cfm
Les has made many other monumental carvings, among them the beautiful and impressive wooden gate on the UBC campus to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Sopron-UBC forestry students in 1956-57. Below are two photos of the gate, one in typical fall colours and the other with some of the 140 former students as they commemorated the 50th anniversary of their arrival on June 14-16th 2007.
For more information about Leslie Jozsa and his work, you can visit his website: http://www.laszlojozsa.com/index.php
For more on the Sopron story click here: www.hungarianpresence.ca/History/Sopron-Kozak-301.cfm.
Below are two photos of the gate, one in typical fall colours and the other with some of the 140 former students as they commemorated the 50th anniversary of their arrival on June 14-16th 2007.