“The Bridge of Life” built by Dionicio Rodriguez at the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Suitland, Prince George’s County, Maryland, in 1936-38.
Hispanic Heritage Month
The Work of Dionicio Rodriguez, A Nationally Known Mexican-American Artist, in Prince George’s County Cedar Hill Cemetery, 4111 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suitland, Maryland, is the site of notable work by Dionicio Rodriguez (1891-1955), a nationally recognized Mexican-born artist who worked in concrete. Cedar Hill Cemetery was established as Forest Lake Cemetery in the 1890s by George B. Starkweather. After the sale of the property to Albert Carry, William A. Harrison, and William H. Harrison in 1914, the name was changed to Cedar Hill. In 1936, Dionicio Rodríguez was hired to create a number of picturesque sculptures for the cemetery grounds. Rodríguez was noted for his unique style of concrete construction that imitates wood and is known as faux bois (false wood) or trabajo rustic (rustic work). He worked in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Texas, as well as Washington, D.C. and Mexico City from 1924 to the early 1950s, using reinforced concrete to create sculptures that imitated the natural forms and textures of rocks and wood. Many of his creations including bridges, benches, gates, fences, steps, and fallen trees can be found in cemeteries. Rodríguez created seven sculptures for Cedar Hill Cemetery including: a fallen tree bench with a smooth planed seat and textured base that simulates a fallen tree trunk; two wooden bridges with branch-like railings and planked decks, one flanked on either end by Chinese lanterns, the other with an adjacent tree trunk seat; a wooden table with three smooth logs resting on a tree trunk base under a rock-columned wooden pergola; a hollow tree house about 12 feet tall, with two openings that serve as entrances and an exterior with a heavy bark texture; and an Annie Laurie Wishing Chair placed under a pergola. The work was finished in early August 1937. Rodriguez’ work at Cedar Hill and across the country are the subject of a monograph by Patsy Pittman Light: Capturing Nature: The Cement Sculpture of Dionicio Rodríguez (Rio Grande/Río Bravo: Borderlands Culture and Traditions, originally published in 2008 by Texas A & M University Press. Cedar Hill Cemetery is still active and now contains more than 65,000 interments. There is also a Faithful Companions pet section on the grounds.