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Borsheim Art Newsletter:

by Kelly Borsheim copyright 10 September 2013

  1. Stone Carving Symposium: Castelvecchio, Italy
  2. A TWO-DAY Large Marble Carving – Pontremoli, Italy
  3. Spanish Artist: M. Fortuny – a Copy in Charcoal
  4. Blog Highlights
  5. Subscription Info.

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[Pontremoli toscana medieval town]

This is the old bridge in Pontremoli, Italy, and you may see where our marble came from!

Dear Art Lover,

This letter is a continuation (Part II) of the stone carving opportunities that I have enjoyed this summer of 2013. Part I about Castelvecchio symposium in a stone called pietra serena is here:

Pontremoli Medieval Festival, Italy:

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

In late August, my friend Kumiko and I took the train directly from Firenze to Pontremoli, north of Carrara, but still in Tuscany. We were guests of one of Kumiko's professors, also a stone carver and painter. We had two days to carve a large chunk of white marble that had been pulled from the local river.

We were told ahead of time not to bring our pneumatic tools (since there would be no air compressor available this year). However, once we arrived, we were also told that we could not use our electric tools, except for an hour or two in the morning. Although we were given a space near the river and bridge in which to create our 2-day masterpieces, a medieval restaurant booth had set up close to us for the festival and did not want our dust while they prepared lunch for the tourists. And of course, the noise would be too much and too dangerous once visitors began arriving. Oh, and also, it was the hope that we could carve something beautiful for the city to keep as part of a new public sculpture collection.

The kicker for me was when we went to the site to see our stone choices after dinner the night we arrived. There were three of us carvers: myself, Kumiko Suzuki, and Maryam Pezeshki (an Iranian artist based in Milano, but also a former student of the professor's at the Belle Arte school in Firenze, and a regular at the annual Pontremoli Medieval Festival). Two good-size chunks of white marble were lying on the ground by the river. One quick look told us that these stones were useless for sculpture: there were cracks throughout. Their only real good use would have been as landscape enhancers ... as is.

If I sound a little put out, well, I will admit that my first thought was, "Wow, what a compliment to artists: That we can make something worthwhile from nothing good, working in the dirt, with mostly only hand tools and in two days. I am feeling a bit ... flattered right now."

I have not yet learned to put things into perspective. I learned a lot from Kumiko in the few days that we were there. And we had a lovely time.

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy] [Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy] [Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

Left two images: What became "my" stone. Do you see what I saw in the lower image? Both women agreed that since I saw something (a bird) in that stone, then I should carve that one. The marble piece on the upper right became Kumiko's. Maryam had decided to continue work on a small rock that she had carved last year, a portrait.

Above, Lower right: As we walked down the main street to our site, we passed many open spaces that were decorated for the medieval festival. This was a new way of exhibiting paintings!

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

Above: We were given hammer and chisels (hand tools) and also clothes to wear. We were part of the festival now. My colleagues assured me that each of them had worn my dress in one of the previous years. It was hard for me to imagine because they are smaller women than I am and the dress was far too large for me! Tied with a rope, and we were the "povere" (poor women). hahah... every society needs them, I guess. Here you see your three sculptors watching the preparations (l-r): Kelly Borsheim (yours truly), Kumiko Suzuki, and Maryam Pezeshki.

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

Left: Lord only knows what I was waxing on about! Kumiko snapped this shot. This was our downtime. We had arrived in the early afternoon, eaten lunch, and checked into the village castle where we all shared a room with bunkbeds, each having a pair to ourselves. We showered and changed into our costumes for the weekend and later walked in the parade of medievally dressed characters.

Pontremoli is situated between two merging rivers. We carved our marble very close to this joining point. The town is a long and narrow shape, with the castle located on the opposite end of the main street from our carving site and with a higher altitude. The streets were lined with booths selling spices, jewelry, clothing, linens, wood items for kitchen and hiking, toys, swords, leather goods, art, handmade soaps, and local foods (such as il testarolo, a local type of pancake that is cooked up and eaten with olive oil or pesto (not as a sweet).

There were also a lot of "scary" sculpture installations set up throughout the main squares and streets. There were people dressed in bloody sheets, wounded from I knew not what. It looked at bit like Halloween to me and the first night of the festival was apparently some sort of celebration for the dead.

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy] [Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

Above: There is nothing like watching a Medieval Festival in a town that actually lived through the period. The buildings are authentic, the bridges, sculptures, family crests and flags, the traditions, and even the faces of the people themselves fit together in a very real way.

After dinner, we went down to the carving site and I got to meet Zucchero, a famous musician who is from Pontremoli! He was quite nice and after meeting him I got to speak with several others at his table. I was thrilled to have received compliments on my Italian speaking, but a bit dismayed that the other side of it was, "Not many Americans even try to speak Italian." I was told that my grammar was quite good. Now, to work on my vocabulary!

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy] [Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

Above: We ate quite well here in Pontremoli at a Caffe Bianca (I believe the name is longer, but this is what we called it). In this case, room and board was our payment for our work carving stone.

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy] [Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

Above: I have to say that I felt intimidated with this project. I knew when I accepted that I would only have two days and a large stone. The other limitations did not help. After all, one wants to do a good job, always. In the end, anyone who sees my finished work will have just that... not the challenges, not the short work time... just the sculpture. However, fear that paralyzes is no good. Fear that motivates is so much healthier.

Normally, the first step is to remove bad stone, see what is left, and (re)design. But there was no time for that and it was clear that none of this stone was good for sculpture. I decided to let go and use this experience as practice and also to loosen up a bit in my work. In the morning I used my diamond blade and scored several sections based on the drawing marks I had made on the rock. I had to remove the rope belt of my costume, since the dangling part was even more dangerous than the volumous fabric of the dress to have around a fast-spinning electric-powered disc. And I chose to stand and bend over the stone because sitting with a power tool is a good way to lose body parts if something goes wrong. Physically, this was not a healthy position.

In the afternoon, I used the handheld hammer and chisel to break aways the parts that I had earlier cut. I sat to keep my back somewhat vertical, but tried to keep my feet out of the way. I had also changed out of my tennis shoes to try to get back into character a little more. I had decided to use as much of the natural face of the stone as I could. And I heard my friend Vasily Fedorouk's voice in my head, advising me to work one line - the most important one - and make everything else fit that idea. Nothing was in proportion, but the form indicating a bird was already there. And thus, I put most of my focus into shaping the head, knowing that the other curving lines I hinted at would be enough to communicate something of bird-essence.

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

Above: Another tasty lunch, this time hand-shaved tartufo (truffle) over a tasty pasta with creme sauce!

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

Above: After lunch, I was charmed by the light falling through the trees on both sides of the river banks as this boy touched my work-in-progress.

After lunch, the professor told Kumiko and me that we should take a break from sculpting to create a painting for their competition. He handed us decent-sized cotton canvases, a small set of oil pastels and a child's set of egg tempera paints, and some cheap brushes. Apparently the painters we met the first night did not stay. I was amused when we were told, "It doesn't have to be a masterpiece."

Now, I am normally a nap taker, but after having eaten a grand lunch AND with gorgeous weather, the white marble boulders in the river that I had slept on so beautifully the day before called to me. Who could resist such a siren? Maryam took these images of Kumiko and me (below) as we contempted the task ahead of us, and later when I was trying to work. However, the drowsiness hit, I shortly afterwards, my cheek was on the cool marble.

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy] [Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy] [Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

Above: As I mentioned on the story about the stone carving symposium in Castelvecchio, these kind of events have some sort of ceremony at the end. The judges chose winners in the painting competition and were rewarded. We sculptors got participation certificates for sculpting and painting. And we watched a "paint-off" demonstration between the professor and another famous artist in these parts. That was fun to see different styles being painted before our eyes simultaneously and on large boards.

Shortly after a small dinner, it poured rain. It was lovely, since I have always enjoyed storms, but it was Saturday night. That meant that so many of the festivals main attractions / performances would not happen. Most were postponed to Sunday evening. But sadly, as with many outdoor events, vendors pack up to leave and once gone, stay gone. We did not get back to carving. Maryam left early the next morning, while Kumiko and I took advantage of the cool morning. The image above right was our view from the castle as we started our last day in Pontremoli.

With no one around: no tourists, no cooks, no one... we were able to get in a couple of more hours of carving done our way. The river was dramatically fuller after the previous night's storm. But just as we were deciding to call this adventure done, the rains returned and we took a bit of shelter under the bridge. However, when it eased up a bit, we took these shots of our work before heading to the cafe to eat lunch and then get ready for the trainride home.

All in all, despite my earlier reservations, I was not unhappy with what I accomplished in such a short period of time. I really enjoyed seeing another part of Italy and being a part of a costumed event! We ate well, slept well, and got to work outside in perfect weather. And I got to meet some pretty kind people. It was worth it.

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy] [Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]

[Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy] [Stone carving medieval festival Pontremoli, Tuscany, Italy]


Still with me? Click here to see images of my stone carving in Castelvecchio, Italy

New Art! Catalan Artist: M. Fortuny – a Copy in Charcoal

[Charcoal Drawing, Male Nude on Cross, Copy of Mariano Fortuny]Fortuny Copy, Male Nude, 68 x 50 cm, by Kelly Borsheim

I got my hands of a sheet of Umbria paper, made in Italy, but no longer available. I have a small supply of it. I like the more organic and less geometric look compared to a lot of the lined papers that I also like. The crème color is lovely too. So, I chose to create a copy of a charcoal drawing attributed to Mariano Fortuny, a Catalan painter, famous in his own day (1838 – 1874).

What I particularly like about the piece, besides the obviously well-done male figure, of course, is that just as with Michelangelo’s “Pietà,” one does not think of the parts that do not fit. Few rarely notice that if Michelangelo’s Mary stood up, she would be of towering and inaccurate proportion compared to the grown man who is her son.

In the Fortuny, the “cross” the man poses against, does not match up. I love it that one arm straddles a slightly twisting branch, while the other reaches along a wooden plank. It is an abstraction of sorts. The artist is more interested in where the light and dark shapes can play off one another than he is in reality.

I hope you enjoy my copy of this work. He is available. The drawing is 68 x 50 cm (approximately 26 x 20 inches). Priced to find a new home at $1200 with free international shipping from Italy. Just reply to this message if you are interested in this charcoal drawing. Thank you for looking!

Please contact me directly or any of my galleries, from the Franklin Barry in Indianapolis to Gallery XO in southeast Florida to The Crucible in Norman, Oklahoma. For more information on these honorable people, please visit my gallery page:

Original Sculptures by Vasily Fedorouk

I have rarely met a person who loved to carve stone as much as my late friend and mentor Vasily Fedorouk. And I was stunned the first time I met him in 2001 in Marble, Colorado. He roughed out a belly dancer on a fountain that was taller than he was and did it in 4 days!

I was absolutely crushed when he died in 2009 while saving his dog from the surprisingly dangerous weeds in a lake near his home. His family has put a few of Vasily's sculptures up for sale to help them keep up the home collection that he had. Please take a look and if you see one that moves you, please contact me and we can make good things happen. See the artworks here: www.borsheimarts.com/vasilyfedorouk.htm

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Thank you for sharing my journey with me. I would be grateful if you chose to forward this newsletter to anyone you think would enjoy it.

Pace (peace),
Kelly Borsheim
10 September 2013

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