The sculpture symposium is over. The artists, one by one are leaving. Sad to see them go. They became like family, bonded by big family meals, heart to hearts and animated discussion. Their works were exhibited in ‘La Cantina’ and garden in Ponte a Serraglio on the weekend in the golden ambience of a summer’s evening.
The artists are being very generous to the Art Festival if they are to sell, which is likely that some of them will. They are respectively offering between 30 and 50% of their sales to next year’s sculpture symposium. If anyone is interested in any of these works please feel free to contact the artists directly on their websites which I have included or contact Jacob Cartwright who is president of the Bagni di Lucca Art Festival association and manager of the sculpture symposium. email@example.com
Every day since the first of July you wander over the passerella to the Villa Fiori gardens and you hear the musical tapping of metal on stone. The sculpture symposium, one of the many wonderful events of the Bagni di Lucca Art Festival, has seen the works of five sculptors evolving and ‘becoming’ over the month; Doug Robinson, Sarah Danays, Ryoichi Suzuki, Petra Boshart and Michael Cartwright. Visitors to the gardens have been delighted by the progress and information on how each artist develops their language, using only hand tools on various types of marble, statuario and normale from Carrara, red travertine from Iran, nut brown from Turkey.
Every day the local people have provided lunch for the artists in their homes. It has been an enormous discovery for the hosts and the artists alike to see how the other lives life. There have been lunches in tiny kitchens and under vines with magnificent vistas, every lunch generous and fundamentally Italian, with pasta and wine and home done olives, good vegetables from the fields and heavy rustic breads and cheeses.
The kindness of Hotel Pio in Bagni Caldi, donating rooms to three of the artists for the full month along with the Bridge Hotel in Ponte a Serraglio hosting Doug, has been a huge act and earns them the name of the ‘art hotels’ and maybe next year with funding they will be well recompensed.
Doug Robinson is a Canadian sculptor who has been coming to Pietrasanta for the past thirty years to carve marble. He has been a wonderful joy in the party, his enthusiasm for the whole culture of Bagni di Lucca with all its hilltop villages, his eyes turning into childlike buttons of wonder have made us laugh and enjoy being here even more. He has been working in the brown travertine and his work, organic, figurative, animistic and landscape, all, are a beautiful testament to his surroundings that he has eagerly absorbed.
Sarah Danays, a UK artist living and creating in L.A. and renovating a house in a little hilltop village here in Bagni, is a petite and gentle woman. She has carved the smallest piece of marble to carefully and delicately create a bust to wear the adornment of an antique necklet which will then be melded into her own artistic expression of a photographic installation. Her lovely kind presence, always caring about us all and deeply concerned for her sponsors that they are properly acknowledged, has been significant to the warmth and friendship of the group.
Ryoichi Suzuki is a Japanese artist who has lived since his student days in Utah, USA, where he now lectures as a teacher in sculpture at the university. He has been used, as a marble sculptor, to the machines of the trade so has encountered a learning curve with the hand chiseling as has nearly everyone in the group. His process has been very methodical and at the end of his stay here he has created an abstracted silken torso in the white Carrara marble. People in town have loved his open interest in them and enjoyed his jovial company in the bar.
Petra Boshart, an artist from the Netherlands, comes from a long respected family line of marble carvers. She has willingly shared lots of tips from her memories of her grandfather and father and has delighted in the hand carving process which has eliminated lots of the aches that sculptors acquire from constant use of machines when carving. Carving on the edge of the Lima River inspired her sculpture in the Iranian red travertine, an organic coil of rolling form reflecting the flow of water.
Michael Cartwright, has loved being in the field every day creating. Life has been incredibly busy, because living in the same place you are working in, means many distractions, including hosting his sculpting friends every evening after work. But Mike’s energy is huge and he attacked his cube of stone with velocity before it took its shape into an abstract quirky bird form with what he calls the nest. People walking in the gardens each day got to know it and delight in it which was lovely for him because it usually takes a while for people to know his work. He is working on his second piece now, a promise of a gentle fluid form that feels womanly.
The artists will be showing their work on May 26th, when hopefully the road in Ponte a Serraglio will be closed again and all the shops reopened with the next exhibitions.
On a late summer’s day last year, under a pergola dripping in wisteria and overlooking splendid vistas, a thought was born to a philanthropist and his friends, to have an art festival in Ponte a Serraglio. For years we had all been coming here, and every year another one or two shops would close down. It seemed unbelievably sad that such a beautiful and elegant town with such a salubrious history should disappear, becoming shabbier over the years and less and less inviting to visit.
As with all intrinsically beautiful places, artists are already attracted to this town with its gracious old buildings and surrounding mountains and walks up to the ancient spas. An artist group got together on the bridge, taking over two shops some years ago, Artisti Uniti, of around ten artists. It was shortlived but quickly followed by the Borgo degli Artisti, whose initial group had a dream to create a hamlet of artists, inspired by Greenwich village in New York! The Borgo degli Artisti took the initative to fix up the derelict garden of Villa Fiori, making it a gorgeous place to have a painting event in mid July, attracting nearly 100 artists for the day to paint all along the river and now they also have sagras on that day and other days throughout the year and have a little gallery on the bridge that displays their members’ works year around.
Since the Borgo degli Artisti started, La Rondine Gallery, an artist run space, showing international artists throughout the summer months has opened in two beautiful shops on one of the small piazzas. To add to the general feeling of excitement, a photography gallery directed by Kevan Halson is opening a few doors up from La Rondine and will feature the works of international photographers.
After our informal ideas meetings with our philanthropist friend who donated a substantial offering to the cause, the enormous job of putting together the Bagni di lucca Art Festival, was placed in Jaqueline’s hands. Jaqueline is our daughter-in-law married to our eldest son, Jacob. Her mother has a smile that would light the sun, while her father is a politician in Cape Verde, and we’ve decided upon this knowledge that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. She is extremely talented dealing with so many artists and cajoling so many people to donate their empty shops, encouraging everyone in the town to get out and work at cleaning them up. The feeling of anticipation is palpable. Already the festival, even in its first year, has legs that are running for success. Of course she is greatly supported by Jake, and the two of them have become a wonderful team.
In generous collaboration, the Borgo degli Artisti are delighted to have the art Festival take place throughout the Villa Fiori gardens. Starting at the beginning of July, there will be a marble hand carving sculpture symposium with international sculptors; music performances; opera; acrobatics; dancing. Plus, there are 7 or 8 empty shops that have been seconded and they will be artists’ studios/exhibition spaces/installations. These shops will rotate with artists over the entire summer, June through till September. The scrumptious old casino will be transformed in the summer for a piano recital of Lizst by one of Australia’s foremost pianists, Ronald Farren-Price, also for an opera from London and an opera from Lucca as well as a performance by Italy’s Al Maranca. It’s a growing happening and already people on the other side of the world are booking to come over to be here, enticed by beauty and culture and delightful traditions.
The Bagni di Lucca Art Festival is the manifestation of many dreams in the little town to see it thrive once more. After all, its historical interest has always been through the amazing artists and personages who have visited this town in the summer.