Everyday we gaze up at Mount Altissimo and its falling debris of marble from the quarries up there. On one of our days working at the studio, an old artigiani, Romolo, pointed out Michelangelo’s cave, a gaping maw in the face of the edifice, known as the Capella, (chapel), where his excavation in 1517 offered the finest whitest marble ostensibly to be used for the facade of San Lorenzo of Florence.
We started carving in January, finding our stone in the Binelli marble yard in Pietrasanta and having it delivered to Shakti studio where we set ourselves up under the shelter of the great old mediterranean pines. Winter was beautiful to carve in, so reclusive, not many artists around, the streets empty of the thousands of tourists that invade Pietrasanta in the summer. We would throw ourselves into heavy days of cutting and wedging and pointing, heedless of pain until inevitable weariness would send us into the arms of the Croce Verde where we would tuck into the wonderful pranzo di lavoro, worker’s lunch, sustaining us for a few more hours before sleep. The joy of it all, of seeing your creations emerge, a little at a time, coming into being, into life, to be loved and touched tenderly. It is what seduces you into the slave you become for marble.
Michael and I have a beautiful project to create a memorial for a patron and friend that we both loved dearly. The memorial includes her granddaughter who had died too young and they are to be side by side. It is our first collaboration with our art because neither would hand over to the other to do it, equal as we feel. So the art work is the combination of us both and yet not a compromise from either of us. Our friend loved sailing and traveling on cargo ships so it was appropriate to use one of Michael’s boat forms to symbolically take her on the spiritual journey over the universal seas. The boat is hewn from black Marquina marble from the Basque country in northern Spain, its form, heavy, organic and worn, rising gently on a billowing sea strewn with the stars of the night. Michael’s work has always had as one of its themes the boat, signifying the great journey of life. My contribution is the two passengers in white marble, two stele forms inspired by ancient cycladic sculptures and those wonderful stele found all over the world, marking a journey or a significant happening. They are representative of the human life but more about the essence of being and symbolic of the life wisdom of each. They stand like ‘standing stones’ in the rocky boat, facing their journey, calm and stoic, and together.
We have at last arrived at our little provencal cave after a full summer of more carving and modelling in Pietrasanta. We are at rest now in our little house and garden nestling into the side of the castle hill rising gently over the village. The river winding around our village is crystal clear over the stones, slowly flowing and emaciated, it has bared the banks and widened the beaches to paddle from. The land outside the village is exhausted from sun, dry and burnt, yet the lush green vines give lie to the summer heat. So, so beautiful to be here in this peaceful quiet before we start again in the dirty white world of dust and noise filled with the optimism of creation.