Field trips!

Home. After four weeks of sculpting and two weeks exploring Italy it is wonderful to be back home on beautiful Whidbey Island. It’s so green! Italy was so great (big surprise), I have more photos to share from my trip, so if you’re up for more about Sue’s adventures in Italy, keep following the blog.

The last week in March we (Tamara, Eirene, and I), took a couple of great field trips. We went into Florence to have a visit with David, yes, “The David.” We also visited the Medici Chapel to see the sculptures there. The following day we went up into the mountains outside of Carrara on a marble quarry tour, its too many photos for one blog so that is a whole separate blog that I will post soon, in the meantime, enjoy Michelangelo.

David by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. When I first saw this sculpture in person 16 years ago it took my breath away. This return visit was no less inspiring.

I hope you enjoy the photos even a fraction as much as we enjoyed these days. I plan to post a couple more blogs after this and I’ll definitely post when the stone arrives. It’s on a ship now headed this way and is due in late May.

These are photos of the unfinished Slaves by Michelangelo, also at the Galleria dell’ Academia in Florence. It’s amazing to get within feet of these sculptures and see the tool marks as he worked to find the lines of the form in the block. You can see where he was working out the placement of the body part, pushing it deeper into the stone.

That’s Tamara and Eirene (third and fourth persons from the right) enjoying the well-place bench where you can sit and gaze and then move along and appreciate the lines of the sculpture from a slightly different vantage point.

The Medici Chapel is home to the sculptures at the tombs of Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici. You probably know these sculptures as “Night and Day,” and “Dawn and Dusk,” by Michelangelo.

Lorenzo and Dusk and Dawn
Guiliano and Night and Day (notice how “Day” is so more polished and more bright than “Night”).

The David and other celebrated Renaissance sculptures are what I grew up seeing in my art books and in popular culture. To see them in person is an inspiration. I’m grateful these sculptures were recognized as masterpieces and protected. I do grieve for the losses of so many masterpieces around the world lost to time, war, and ignorance.

So, back to more Michelangelo. Follow me on a little side track. As my trip progressed I went to Milan and while there I got to see a Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà. He sculpted the “Pietà” theme at least three times; the first he sculpted when he was in his 20’s, the famous Pietà which is at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The second has 4 figures; “Deposition,” which sculpted in his 70’s. It’s in Florence but I have not see this one. The Rondanini Pietà is at the Sforza Castle in Milan and it was the last sculpture he was working on when he died at 89. Ah, it’s such a feast seeing these sculptures in person.

The sculpture is clearly unfinished, not just obvious by the lack of detail and the textures but also because he left a previous version of Jesus’s right arm that is 10 or more inches away from where the current arm and body of Jesus is. This sculpture doesn’t have to thick muscularity of many of his other sculptures, in fact, from some views I found myself wondering if he’d left enough stone to finish it. He certainly captured the drama in the pose, you can feel the weight and the sorrow.

If you want to learn more about figurative sculpture from the Renaissance, may I recommend the podcast The Sculptors Funeral by Jason Arkles. Jason is going to be one of our instructors at Northwest Stone Sculptors Pilgrim Firs Symposium in July.

There is so much to see in Florence and we were only there for part of a day. It was amazingly crowded, I hear it is always like this now but it was the nicest day of the year and a Saturday. Still, if you’re visiting Florence, get your tickets in advance (thanks Tamara) or you will likely spend a lot of time in line.

Art everywhere, models from the Academia and sculpture from the Palazzo Vecchio.

Not everything is old. Here’s some street art by Blub I found on the streets in Florence and Lucca.


So Much Stone

Notice I did not say “too much stone.” Stone is one of those things you can’t have too much of; like good health or love. Everywhere you turn there is stone; the tile, curbs, window sills, and sinks. It’s like wood in the Pacific Northwest, it’s the readily available material.

Studio Pescarella is located in an industrial area so we are surrounded, literally, by stone yards and fabricators. On either side of us and across the street there are yards, and the “back yard” to the studio is a river and on the other side of the river is…wait for it, yes, two more stone yards.

The stone yard next door, the cranes are amazing!
Two of the stone yards across the river, notice all the marble lining the river banks, yes, I did pick some of that up too.
The stone yard on the other side of us, the one closest to us that has the fabrication shop. I will be bringing something home from here.

The difficulty is choosing. So I started with the path of least resistance, I bought a couple of small cut off stones from one of the studio owners here and worked on those. Then we started exploring the dumpster next door which belongs to a large scale fabricating shop with wire saws, CNC machines and all the rest. They are kind enough to indulge visits to the dumpster from the Studio. We have “rescued” good stone there, the biggest was a good size chunk (see below) and had 2 cracks, once split it has broken into three nice carving stones with lovely veining.

“Rescuing” stone from the dumpster with a little help.
A lucky day at the dumpster, Eirene and Tamara and the catch of the day.
The block with 2 cracks before.
…and after
Another stone, before.
During. Yes, that’s me wearing my Freeland Art Studios t-shirt!
…and after, “The Three Graces”

On Friday we started actually shopping to buy stone. It gets delivered on Monday, nothing giant but some nice finds. More on that soon. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m happy so many of you are enjoying being along on my trip to Italy.


Sunday is our day off

It just so happened that we’re in Italy for one of the biggest Festival experiences in Italy. Carnavale Viareggio is second only to the Carnavale in Venice, and it just happens to be only a half hour from where we are. On Sunday, our day off at the studio, we decided to join the crowds. The guidebooks call it a “once in a lifetime must- see” and they were right.

Three happy artists enjoying the VERY large sculptures of Carnavale

We parked far away and had a lovely walk along the seaside boulevard, which was very Malibu-y. Many places aren’t open and the beach isn’t wall to wall people like it is in the summer. We started to see folks dressed up and since it was mid-afternoon there were lots of families and kids. All the kids had bags of paper confetti to throw and they did enjoy that. I’ve got some still in my shoes, bed and floor.

We bought our tickets and joined the party inside the gates. They have the entire boulevard blocked off to control entry for 2 km long circuit. Each direction is two lanes wide and the floats start moving and go in a large circle. You start seeing these giant floats from far away but you cannot see the entire length of the parade. The largest ones fill the whole street, almost close enough to touch people standing on their balconies three stories up. The floats are made of paper-mache, as they have been since they started way back 140+ years ago. I’m sure they have some rain proofing material on the outside as they seem to be quite permanent, not like the paper-mache I made in grade school.

Here was a busy make-up tent for dancers on the floats. They were hustling to finish everyone, 10 minutes later the parade started and the tent was packed up in flash.

The large floats are animated, some have multiple characters moving in multiple dimensions, it’s an engineering marvel under it all I’m sure. Some are pulled by tractors, others must have some device driving it from the interior, many are pulling large industrial-sized generators to power the lights and who knows what else. There are folks pulling levers and spinning wheels to move certain parts, and they’re doing this for at least 3 hours, impressive! There are dancers on the floats and also lines of dancers in front of the floats, some had some intricate choreography. After 2 hours we started seeing a lot of folks in these costumes at the concession stand or having a cigarette, I think dancing on the floats is more fun the first half hour.

These folks were part of the Trump’s Space Force, after 2 hours the choreography was not happening and they were walking in front of the float smoking.
This was on of the most emotionally powerful floats, it was masterfully done.

The artistry of the floats were amazing, there were some that seemed to be alive, and many had an emotional impact like the whale covered in plastic with oil refineries growing from its back, and a tear coming from its eye. I encourage you to look up some YouTube video of the Carnavale Viareggio 2019, their videos are better than mine and seeing them move is amazing.

They encourage everyone to participate in the parade, no sitting on the curb. Well you can but everyone else is walking around you so you don’t see much this way. You can get right in the street in front of the float (as long as you move out of the way to not get run over).

Tamara taking video from under the whale. you can see how close she is.

So many of the attendees were in costumes, like Halloween. It was great to be able to get up and walk around and follow a float or cross to the other side of the street when you wanted.

Some of the floats were tributes, like the Frida Kahlo, many had to do with the key issues of our times: the environment, bullying, and of course, politics. There were two large-sized Trump floats (and I think a few small ones), one depicting him as “God Emperor Trump,” which was not meant to be complimentary although I understand that some of his fans think it was. The other one was Trump as a baby swimming amongst toys. It doesn’t seem that Italians are fans, another reason to love Italy.

This experience was an amazing “extra” for us. There was so much to see, I’ve added a lot more photos to the end of this blog. It has taken me a few days to get this posted, our wifi here isn’t very robust but I’m grateful we have it. I’m going to publish this while it’s still daytime for you all, it’s still odd being a half a day ahead of you all! Everything at the studio is going great, more tales coming of stone, tools and sculpting…