Sun, 25 Nov 2001

Sculptor does not clown around with his art

A Christiant Kusuma, Contributor, Yogyakarta

Those who have patronized a McDonald's fast-food restaurant anywhere in the world are no doubt familiar with the red-haired, balloon-nosed figure of Ronald McDonald.

But do you know the man responsible for the statues found at McDonald's outlets in Indonesia? He is 38-year-old Herry Maizul, an artist who has overcome physical disability -- his left leg is shorter than his right and the fingers on his left hand are stunted -- to succeed.

"The statues of Ronald McDonald at every McDonald's in the country are my work," said Herry, who was born in Padang Panjang, West Sumatra and currently resides in Yogyakarta, where he owns the Prasasti Gallery.

Herry certainly never expected to receive an order for a Ronald McDonald statue when he took part in an art exhibition in 1994. At the exhibition, a bronze statue made by Herry, called Peragawati (Model), was bought by Bambang N Rahmadi, owner of the McDonald's franchise in Indonesia.

When he delivered the statue to Bambang in Jakarta, Herry was offered the job of making a Ronald McDonald statue.

"Just use the money I have paid you for Peragawati. If you fail (to make the Ronald McDonald statue), I will give you a reimbursement," Herry quoted Bambang as saying.

With the money, Herry crafted a fiberglass replica of Ronald. Bambang was pleased with the result and placed an order for more than 100 statues.

After successfully completing the order, Herry was brought to the attention of a foreign businessman, who asked him to make 16 two-meter-tall fiberglass Ronald McDonald statues.

With 70 people working on the order, each figure took a week to complete. After all 16 of the statues were completed, they were shipped off to other countries in the Asia Pacific region.

"This is the first time we have sent statues of Ronald McDonald abroad," said Herry.

Herry has built a successful career as a sculptor, despite the fact that his parents, Lasmi St. Malano and Martini, were never involved in art. Of his family, only one of his younger brothers has ever displayed any artistic talent.

"He is better than me at drawing," said Herry, the eldest of six children.

It has not all been plain sailing for Herry though. He has experienced his share of tough times too. While still a student at a fine arts school in Yogyakarta, he went to Bogor for a month and sold his own greeting cards on the sidewalk of Jl. Suryakencana Bogor.

"It wasn't bad. I earned enough to buy food," he said.

While a student at Yogyakarta's Art Institute of Indonesia (ISI) in 1985, he and a fellow student, Zulhenry, sold greeting cards and painted portraits on Jl. Malioboro. The pair would work from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Now Herry is enjoying the fruits of his hard work, though he never thought he would ever be as successful as he is today. He said his mother wanted him to help her run their shop after he completed junior high school in Padang Panjang in 1977. And the school principal advised him to enroll in a special school for the disabled.

"I rejected these suggestions and said then that I would earn a university degree despite my disability."

After completing junior high school in 1977, Herry enrolled in the fine art high school in Padang Panjang. He stayed there for a year before Syaiful Adnan, a noted calligrapher, took him to Yogyakarta to study at the fine art high school there. He then went on to ISI, where he majored in sculpture, graduating in 1994.

While in Yogyakarta, he was also asked to join a center for the disabled. But he refused, because he believed that disabled children educated at a foundation felt inferior to other people once they left the protection of the foundation and entered the outside world.

And one thing Herry has never felt is inferior. He recalls as a child, playing and fighting with other children his age.

"A friend of mine teased me once and I challenged him to a fight," said Herry, now a father of two.

"I want to prove that disabled and able-bodied people can get along," he said.