Notes on Quentin McCaffrey’s Residency in Carrara

by Stephen Shaheen, MFA 2005

Shaheen and McCaffrey in Italy
Over the decade since I finished my training as a sculptor in Italy, I have gone back as much as life permits.  Part of my annual recharge in the bel paese has involved teaching.  While completing my MFA at the New York Academy of Art, I was surprised by the number of colleagues who passionately studied the Western artistic tradition—heavily rooted in Italian history and culture—without having experienced the country firsthand.  In 2005 I brought John Jacobsmeyer and a small group of painters and sculptors to the Senese countryside.  The intent was to give participants the same intensive coupling of artistic practice and direct exposure to masterpieces which had informed my own experience.  

Since then, I have brought several groups in various configurations.  Even running workshops on a shoestring budget, I know that it is always a challenge for artists to afford travel in Europe—especially with today’s weak dollar.  It has always been my goal to offer the experience to someone at no cost.  That opportunity came this year, in the form of a joint scholarship with Ippolita Rostagno, whose generously covered the significant travel expenses.  Growing up in Florence and undergoing rigorous artistic training that helped form her as the prodigious three-dimensional artist and designer who now runs an extremely successful business in her name, Ippolita did not hesitate to collaborate on this grant.  Her smart and daring creativity is only matched by her unfaltering support of the arts.

Ippolita and I put the recipient’s selection in the hands of the Academy, and they delivered. Quentin McCaffrey arrived in Carrara not only prepared with a model of what he wanted to carve, but with a suitcase of inquisitiveness and diligence that surpassed his actual luggage.  It is a rare pleasure to instruct someone so attentive, deliberate, and confident enough in his abilities to risk, yet receptive to new and challenging approaches.  Quentin took on the dual contest of not only translating a conceptual model into stone, but simultaneously enlarging it 150%.  This is unheard of for a first project in such a technically demanding medium.  Arriving at the point where he was modeling the facial features, Quentin surpassed even my own tall expectations for what was possible in two short weeks interrupted by trips to Florence, Siena, and the cavernous quarries high above Carrara.

As the program coordinator and teacher, I can simply qualify his residency in Carrara as an astonishing success.

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