Del Mar resident Maidy Morhous has been making sculptures since she was 8 years old — carving blocks, putting together models, assembling jewelry. Her mother, an oil painter and watercolorist, used to buy her paints, but Morhouse always gravitated toward 3D art of any kind. She loved it so much that sometimes she’d simply find things and glue them together.
Morhous followed through with her passion, getting a master’s degree in fine art and working as a professional etcher and printmaker in Los Angeles for more than a decade. But her childhood calling was still alive, and when she moved to Del Mar about 25 years ago she started focusing on sculpture — which was a big risk, she said, because wall art is much easier to sell than 3D art.
“When people want art for their homes, they tend to think about wall art,” she said. “When it comes to sculpture, it’s a whole different way of thinking.”
But she never looked back. Morhous sells her sculptures out of her Del Mar home in addition to showing and selling them all over the world. Here in San Diego she serves as the exhibition chair for the San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild and her work is being featured at the Lyceum Gallery in the guild’s current show, “Exits and Entrances,” through Oct. 21. She said she’s also particularly proud of being recently juried into a New York gallery as part of a National Association of Women Artists exhibition.
If you’ve ever stepped foot in the Scripps Clinic Carmel Valley lobby and seen the sculpture of a newborn infant nestled in a blanket, then you are somewhat familiar with Morhous’s work. She gave the health center that piece as part of an organization she started in 2010 called Art For Us, which chooses an entity each year to give a relevant sculpture to.
“I want to give back to organizations that are helping the community,” she said. “Normally my artwork goes into someone’s home, but I still want people to see the artwork, so we look for a place where it can be displayed.”
Also, as part of Art For Us, she has donated a sculpture of a daydreaming young girl to Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, where it was placed near the cancer ward. She is also in the process of sending three sculptures to the Miyagi Museum of Art in Sendai, Japan, a city that’s still enduring the effects of the 2011 tsumani and earthquake. Morhous happened to be in Tokyo at the time of the disaster, which was part of her motive in picking Sendai as her next sculpture recipient.
“It was so frightening to be so close when it happened,” she said. “It was frightening to see the images of the storm taking everything like a ragdoll and shaking it.”
Much of Morhous’s work is inspired by the human figure and the emotions expressed by others. For example, her sculpture at the Lyceum Gallery depicts three Somali refugees behind a wire fence, an image similar to and inspired by a photo she once saw in a magazine. She also sculpts a variety of nude figures, but they are not representative of specific people, she said.
“My sculptures are an embodiment of feelings and emotions,” she said. “In this way, they are meant to be symbolic rather than representative.”