The life of a world-famous cartoonist and international sculptor has taken Jorge Blanco across the world and back, before landing in Sarasota in 1999, where locals recognize him best for The Runners, a series of red and yellow figurative sculptures frozen mid-jog in the median down South Tamiami Trail or his smaller works at Allyn Gallup Contemporary. This past November, the artist was awarded the commission for the roundabout sculpture at Orange Avenue and Ringling Boulevard.


As a child growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, Jorge Blanco liked to draw; like all children, he says, he enjoyed playing with color. Unlike all children, Blanco grew into an acclaimed artist with work on display in 19 cities across the US and in countries from Indonesia to Italy. He traces the real beginnings back to his time at the Neumann Institute of Design and what he found there: “I discovered the third dimension.” Blanco’s path through life reads as a series of discoveries. While present work evokes optimism and childlike play, its simple and cartoonish construction belying a cheeky but guileless sense of humor writ large in gleaming colored aluminum, early years saw the artist withdrawn in his work, crafting moody maquettes from wood and bronze. Many artists go through this phase, Blanco says, and it remains valid and good as any other, but today his passion lies in sharing the enjoyment he finds in life, not the pain. “I changed a full 180,” he says, “and this is my goal.”


Now he finds inspiration in communal activity, such as music and sporting events, where strangers unite. “Both of these are a wonderful experience of humanity,” he says, “because you see a lot of people together—a huge quantity of people—with no religion, no language, no race and no war.” Blanco’s innocent but irreverent commentary made him a national star in Venezuela, where his comic strip Castaway ran for 20 years and spun off into television and merchandising for its central character (later enjoying a stint in Sarasota as well). Sculpture may not run as readily in daily newspapers, so Blanco hopes to share his passion and continue his conversation with the audience by promoting more public art. “This is very important to me because public art produces a wonderful consequence in the community,” he says. “Art is sentimental, but it’s also communication.”