By Steve Shaheen (MFA 2005)
After six weeks in seaside Carrara, the skin is tan, the body sore, the stomach accustomed to heaping portions of carbohydrates, and the New York grind a fleeting bad dream. The rust has finally been scraped off my Italian, but my brain is amply scrambled from constant translation, so much so that I am now responding to Italians in English and Americans in Italian.
The days are long, and the hardcore among us work from 7am to 9:30pm. Sculpting in natural daylight is infinitely better than under studio lights, and there is a local adage that reinforces this: Che si fa di notte si vede di giorno (what you do by night you see by day). In Carrara there is no sense of a relaxed Mediterranean culture that is perpetually tardy and punctuated by siestas; as long as the sun shines and blood stirs in your veins, you work.
What is work?
Work is donning a respirator, safety glasses, ear protection and gloves to dive into a clamorous white mist of strenuous and irrevocable decision making. Work is subduing a writhing pneumatic hammer that delivers 6,000 blows per minute, and submitting its abusive concussions to a mass of 200-million-year-old crystallized marine skeletons with the hope that somehow all this violence will eventually make sense. Work is cradling a 2400-watt angle grinder with 9-inch blade screaming at 10,000 rpm, three inches from your hands, as you whittle a block of marble that was moved by a crane at breakfast into something you can hoist with one arm by lunch.
This is the world of contemporary stone sculpture, at least to those of us remaining who do our own work. It's not for everyone.
Italy is a place of surprises, whether it's discovering your rental car's spare tire has a hole in it while on the shoulder of a highway, or your train catching on fire. In addition to these memorable occurrences, we've had many pleasant impreviste. Highlights include: Josh and Heena's invitation to participate in Carrara Marble Week (an art and design fair in the city's historic center); a lunch with American expatriate, painter/engraver Robert Carroll; admission to a closed room in the Bargello for a private viewing of Bernini's Costanza Bonarelli; a six-hour hike in the green mountains above Camaiore. Josh also claims that he is surprised to discover that olive oil tastes like olive oil, and tomatoes taste like tomatoes.
I'm about to leave the land of vermentino and spaghetti allo scoglio for the concrete and steel jungle I call home. Check out more details about the Carrara residency on Josh Henderson's blog.