Carrara Part II: Initiation into an Ancient Tradition

June 18 - July 3, 2012, recent Academy graduate Joseph Brickey (MFA 2012) lived and worked in Carrara, Italy as part of a two-week Artist in Residence Program sponsored by ABC Stone and The Oriano Galloni Foundation, and coordinated by artist Stephen Shaheen (MFA 2005).

The Apuan Alps, where white marble has been quarried for thousands of years
By Joseph Brickey (MFA 2012)
Upon arriving in Pisa, Steve Shaheen was there to greet me and drive me to Carrara. From the highway I could see the Apuan Alps, with large passages of white where the mountains had been stripped bare from thousands of years of marble quarrying. 

Looming above the Italian landscape with a kind of scarred majesty, the sight seemed to strike a chord deep within me.  The swathes of white marble appeared in the distance as patches of snow, reminding me of the mountains in my home state of Utah.  But there was something further, faint yet familiar, that I felt tugging at my roots.  These white scars on the mountain face seemed to whisper me a welcome, the ageless echo of a common cause, an ancient vestige of a shared passion.  I’d come to the heartland of a people who for countless generations had shared my deep and unique love for this material called white marble.  In a peculiar way, I felt I’d come home.

After ditching my luggage at Villa Acero, we went straight to Studio Corsanini, where I'd spend the next two weeks carving my piece in marble. The workshop owned by Luigi Corsanini is well known in the marble carving world of Tuscany, Luigi himself being recognized for his knowledge of the classical tradition, as well as the quality of his workmanship.

Three generations of Corsanini stone carvers

In this modern age of power tools and technology, very few learn the old ways of working with marble. But the craft lives on in the Corsanini family, a way of life and a family tradition.  It's a beautiful thing to see: a rare and difficult skill that just seems to be in the blood, unifying generations and preserving the mastery of an ancient method. Such a flame is easily quenched, and in the world at large it nearly has been, but it yet burns brightly in this little pocket of Tuscany, undisturbed by the changes all about.

Young Niccolo Corsanini at work

Among the dozens of marble workshops in the area, Studio Corsanini is unique in many ways, one being the way international artists work together with homegrown artisans.  Blood, sweat, and tears are not just metaphorical terms here, but the real ingredients of comradery.  Add marble dust to the mix, and you have a motley group of rare individuals becoming tangibly bound together, from being one percenters in the world to being 100 percenters in the workshop.  How fortunate that I'd landed here of all places!

Kuetani and Steve working at Studio Corsanini

Sculptor Itto Kuetani finishing his latest marble

Master craftsman Massimo at work

After selecting the stone of my choice, it was cut down to size.  This block of marble would become the island of my new adventure, the prison of my new labor, the field of my new battle.  Everything outside of it only existed to serve my life within it.  On it I would stake my claim in a tradition that makes the laborer noble, dirty work honorable, every move immortal, and—come to think of it—every failure famous!  I felt I had entered a marathon on a tightrope.

measuring the model

establishing cardinal points

Massimo blurring the divide between speed & precision

marking the marble block

marking the mastic on the model

finding point on the marble

Massimo measuring depth

the first cuts into the block

The marble block after the first stages

Check back here for more of Joseph's reflections on his residency and first experience working with stone.

Did you miss Joseph's other posts on his experience in Carrara? Read Carrara: The Impossible Dream and Carrara Part III: Reduced to the Dust by Marble.

No comments:

Post a Comment