He paints, he draws, and he tells a great story. Agave Magazine's Artist-in-Residence Tony Luciani's Castel di Capestrano graces the front cover of the latest issue of Agave Magazine, so this week we've asked him to give us the inside scoop on the cover image and some more of his favourite works.
The Italian series
I spent three years in Italy. That is to say, one year, three separate times. Although I was born in Toronto to a family of Italian immigrants, I didn't go to Europe until my Ontario College of Art post-graduate year, in 1977-78. That year was spent mostly in Florence, studying the Renaissance masters. Needless to say, I was awestruck. I went back on my own in 1980-81, and again in 1984-84. Those two times, however, I lived in and painted the tiny village of Carrufo, high up the mountains of Abruzzo, where my family came from. It was during those extended visits that I came to maturity as an artist.
The study for Castel di Capestrano was done on a very narrow bridge in the village of Capestrano. I had to move my easel every time someone in a car wanted to cross over. It was this view I desired, and no car or wide mule-pulled cart full of kindling was going to dissuade me.
To me, Campo Santo di Carrufo is a spiritual painting. The mounds of earth on the graves roll like swells in the ocean, and the cypress trees remind me of souls reaching up to the heavens from their peaceful resting places. I kept the imagery in this work rather vague and purposefully flat, not wanting to lend this experience any sense of reality. My grandfather is buried there.
This series of charcoal drawings began as an observation over a period of two years. My excursions to the local township dump while I was living in the country were always interesting for me, and on every occasion, I would eye the mounds of scrap rubber piled high up against the expansive sky. This is where tires came to die.
One day I showed up with no waste to deposit; instead I had a sketchbook and camera. I asked the site attendant if it was okay with him if I spent some serious time with the mountain of rubber across the way. I explained that I was an artist and I thought the tires were beautiful. He took a step back and said, under his breath, "ahhhh... okay... sure."
All day long as I sketched, photographed and touched the tires, I could see the attendant, a hundred feet away at his booth, talkng to everyone who showed up to discard their garbage, pointing to me and bringing his other hand up to the side of his head, rotating an extended finger.
I heard the laughing... but I got four great drawings.
I had driven many times past a myriad of huge, grey-white turbines strewn across the open farmland outside Shelburne, Ontario. And then one day, taking a road less traveled, I came upon a small, steepled country church and saw the turbines from a new perspective. The scene, it seemed to me, was about the juxtaposition of modernity and antiquity; of furious, curious technological 'progress' and the resulting demise of acres of fertile farmland. In the century-old graveyard beside the church, the crosses on the tombstones echoed the shapes of the turbine blades, reminding me, ridiculously, of the tune from the last scene of the Monty Python film Life of Brian: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
A few years ago a major tornado came through the town where I live. The twister destroyed buildings, uprooted large trees, toppled hydro poles, and devastated parts of the surrounding countryside. Although its path was immense, there was only one casualty; sadly, it was a young boy from this area.
I began a painting with thoughts of capturing the tornado's aftermath. I was helping a friend clean up the debris on her farm the day after the storm and witnessed a scene of tranquility as well as destruction. The sky was the most beautiful blue, yet catastrophe was all around us. And so I painted with that thought in mind. I titled it Aftermath.
With the completed work now on my easel, I was entirely unsatisfied. I took one step back, and a deep breath in, and I knew I had to change it. It just looked like a fallen-down barn, a victim of abandonment.
My painted sky changed. The peaceful blue that had so captivated me became a dark, swirling array of greyish-black clouds. I inserted the twister in the distance. I brushed in sticks and lumber flying in every direction, and made the barn explode with power.
Now I had a painting I was happy with. I called it Twister.
I was in Halifax, Nova Scotia a few years ago and was overwhelmed by the depth of emotion I felt while standing at Pier 21, overlooking the water. This, I thought, is where my father, traveling on his own from Italy at the age of 40, first set foot on Canadian soil in 1950. I imagined the magnitude of his journey. He arrived at one end of this vast country, unable to speak English, and from there made his way to Alberta to work in the coal mines so that he could make enough money to get settled and bring over his wife and children. It took four long years.
My mother and my two brothers, Domenico and Terenzio, arrived at the same Pier 21 in November 1954. I wanted to document this achievement and used an old photo of the actual ship my family sailed on, the Saturnia, as my model. I also used typical Halifax homes of the time to represent what the city must have looked like back then.
When they arrived, my mom and brothers boarded a train from Halifax to Toronto, where they met up with my dad and settled in the city. I was born 17 months later.
By Deb A.
He recently won the Nobel Prize in Literature, yet Patrick Modiano is anything but a household name outside of France; indeed, not even half of his works have been published in English. This week Agave Magazine presents a few basics you should know about the 111th recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The art of memory
The prize was given to Mr. Modiano in recognition of "the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation." Born in 1945 in Paris, his works revisit the themes of identity, memory, loss, and otherness through the Nazi occupation of France.
Short and sweet
Mr. Modiano's over 20 books often reach around 130 pages and are likely to be detective novels; he has also written for film and for children. Nevertheless, he has claimed to be, like many writers, "always writing the same book."
Permanent secretary of the Nobel Academy Peter Englund believes that Mr. Modiano's works are highly accessible: "He has a very refined, simple, straight, clear style ... but it is very, very sophisticated in that simplicity." So if you'd like to find out more about Patrick Modiano's writing, don't hesitate to dive in. Missing Person (Rue des boutiques obscures) is a good place to start. The story, about an amnesiac detective who must rediscover his own identity, won him France's renowned Prix Goncourt in 1978.
Have you read any of Patrick Modiano's works? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.
By Deb A.
"A forest in Norway is growing. In 100 years it will become an anthology of books."
This is how Scottish artist Katie Paterson introduces her latest work, Future Library. The concept is both poetically simple and breathtakingly ambitious, with its final form only being made available one century into the future.
The project begins with a thousand trees that were recently planted in a forest outside of Oslo. Their hundred-year destiny is to be turned into an anthology of one hundred contributions that will be written, one per year, specifically for Future Library; the manuscripts will remain unread and wholly unknown by all but their respective authors until they are printed in 2114.
A panel consisting of literary experts and Katie Paterson (for as long as she lives) will invite one outstanding author per year to contribute a text, which will be stored in the New Deichmanske Public Library, in a room specially designed by the artist and lined with wood from the forest. The first manuscript, by Margaret Atwood, is currently underway and will be handed over for storage next year.
It is unlikely that many of those who contribute an early piece to this artistic time capsule will live to see the reaction of readers in 2114, but this doesn't bother Ms. Atwood, who quipped to The Guardian that "you don't have to be around for the part when if it's a good review the publisher takes credit for it and if it's a bad review it's all your fault."
Nonetheless, there are challenges for everyone involved: the authors, in particular those at the start of the process, will be writing for an utterly unpredictable readership, and will have no way of knowing how their work will be interpreted, or whether it will be appreciated, let alone understood. Nor will Ms. Paterson be able to experience her work's culmination. But for both authors and artist, Future Library transcends the demands of its timeline, which also include logistical challenges such as the potential need for a cultural and linguistic translator, as well as an actual printing press (the latter will be stored with the manuscripts in order to ensure that creating actual physical paper books will still be possible in 2114).
Future Library, according to Ms. Paterson, is nothing less than a melding of nature, art and literature that involves "the interconnectedness of things, those living now and still to come."
Don't forget to leave a note for your grandchildren.
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