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Reflections of the "Ecstasy of St. Teresa" - Sept/Oct 2002


Alexandra Morosco's Artist Spotlight (July/August 2002) is a powerful, evocative, and revealing window into the life and work of a sculptor who has contributed significantly to NWSSA for many years in other ways. Now we see into the world of her sculpting, thanks to Larry Eickstaedt's interview. What I see there inspires me, energizes me, and infuses with me a sense of the importance of our work.

Alexandra's story of her afternoon meditations with Gianlorenzo Bernini's "The Ectasy of St. Teresa" in Rome reminded me of my own experience of that same sculpture about 15 years ago. I was fortunate to sell a sculpture from a travelling exhibition as it passed through Wenatchee, which funded a pilgrimage to Rome to see sculpture. At that time, Michelangelo was my main man in Italy, so the trip was full of wonderful surprises. A favorite discovery was the marble carving of Pope Pius IX in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, to which I returned several times. Once I went there to see how the sculptor had made the lace in the Pope's clothing (I could get as close as I wanted, so I could see detailed evidence of how the sculptor worked, and learn from it ).

My biggest discovery, however, was Bernini. I'd never heard of the man! I stumbled first upon "The Fountain of the Four Rivers" while walking through Piazza Navona, then noticed, but didn't really register, that the same sculptor made the "St. Longinus" in St. Peter's. But I was in for a shock at the Villa Borghese. To walk into that living room and confront the enormous and violent "Pluto Abducting Proserpina" would be a shock for anyone, I suppose (especially in a living room), but it totally stunned me as a work of art. But when I realized that Bernini carved "Apollo and Daphn"e (in the very next room) with a hammer and chisel, he became my hero and my quest.

The day I saw "The Ecstasy," my last day in Rome, I had spent until mid-afternoon in the vicinity of St. Peters, revisiting old discoveries and making new ones. I walked up and over the hill that stands back from the river, taking my time to study both the design and the construction of the Roman wall from the outside. When I entered Santa Maria della Vittoria, late in the afternoon on the other side of the hill, its stained glass windows glowed golden in the setting sun. But for a few candles burning here and there in chapels, though, it was dusky in the church. I found the Cornaro Chapel, but even as my eyes accommodated to the gloom, the gloom itself grew deeper, then deepened into darkness. I was too late to see "The Ecstasy!" Hoping against hope for a miracle, I stayed near the chapel, comforted by her presence and reflecting on my own ecstasy.

Then I heard a rustling. A nun dressed entirely in black walked quickly and surely toward me from a distant doorway, met my eyes briefly as she passed, then continued to the left end of the railing, reached under the rail, and "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa" EXPLODED into my view. Literally, in the same sense in which a flash flood arrives at a place, i.e., with no warning, she splashed light through my retinas and into my memory forever. It is such a powerful piece, and a powerful memory! Thanks, Alex, for the reminder.


Seeker of the Stone's Soul - Sept/Oct 2002


What makes an artist? Remember your mother praising your school artwork, telling you you could be an artist? However, that was your mother, and what did she know? Your father, too stoic, never said what was in his heart. The education system has a way of killing off the truly sensitive artist early in the process. The evaluations and critiques are often not gentle or encouraging. Often at the turning point, there are societal factors like war, raising a family, personal struggles or other pressures that kill the artist in the child.

Over the last year, I’ve had opportunities to watch several artists, both masters and those in the early stages of development. So, what makes an artist? Talking to a great artist, like talking to a world leader, does not make one a great artist. How about listening, watching, and doing? After watching, studying, and listening to people like Sabah Al-Dhaher, Meredith Earls, Karl Hufbauer, Alexandra Morosco, Michael Naranjo, Helen Palisin, Tracy Powell, and Tom Small (there are many more) certain themes or characteristics begin to emerge. No matter how experienced, each person is different, therefore an individual. Even spiritual development varies between artists. So, what makes an artist, let alone a great artist? Unlike the wonderful world of black, white, and cookie cutter desires, there is no clear path that one should walk or high-end educational institution one must attend.

Sadly though, money does play a major role. Without money, you cannot feed yourself, your family, or buy the tools to support your passion. It is probably the biggest killer of artistic development.

Some are driven by the desire to achieve greatness. Others are driven to find themselves. There are part-time, full-time, and want-to-be artists. To show and sell art, some knowledge of business and marketing is required; beyond just knowing how to sculpt, paint, or mold clay. To simply show and sell art does not make the artist a great artist. There are artists that show and sell art because someone with money supports them (a patron). Some artists show and sell intermittently, but never achieve greatness. There are great artists that never show or sell their work. Some are motivated spiritually, and some are motivated by the physicality of the art; the sensations it invokes.

To show and sell art, the artists must expose themselves publicly. A person seeking a solitary existence may not pursue public acceptance and may not become a popular artist until after death, if at all. There needs to be a drive from deep within to produce one new piece after another. An artist must be disciplined to produce enough pieces to provide satisfactory or desired income. To some, the traditional human figure is the way, while others find abstraction their guiding light. For some stone sculptors, it is finding within the stone that which the imagination dreamed about. For others, it is finding what the stone has to reveal.

There are several approaches to carving stone. The primary method of sculpting stone is to search through stones until the right one is found, and then impose the artist’s creative design. The second, and seldom understood, is to search the soul of the stone. Everything has a soul, the level or depth depends on who, what, when, and where. Some artists feel a need to express society’s troubles. Others enjoy the freedom, joy, and imagination associated with expressing one’s creative thoughts. And, some happen into it purely by chance.

Bottom-line, up front, a successful artist is not easy to identify, nor are the characteristics. Sure, there are the flashy, successful artists we see everywhere. But isn’t the artist that produces only for the pure enjoyment of creating, an artist? Who really cares or counts when it comes to living your life? No one but the artist with the spirit to create, that which is within, counts and cares. Society imposes myths and false truths about success to justify self-importance. You, the artist, must reach deep within yourself to find who you are. You, the artist, must reach deep within yourself to find out what you are. Finally, you, the artist, must determine when you become an artist.


Michael Naranjo: Epilogoue - Sept/Oct 2002



There's something about coming into an area of the country that envelops one with its whole environment: the moisture, the sounds. The first person we came across when our feet touched the ground at Camp B was Vic Picou; his embrace was as rich and full as the environment we were just about to enter.

Our uncertainties about what to expect immediately melted away, and we were there! The true spirit of sharing and the creative energy surpassed anything I have ever experienced and I couldn't help but be moved by it. In fact, I'm not sure who got more out of my workshops, the participants or me! The only drawback to my experience there was that I was not carving stone. However, that need, that desire, was reawakened inside of me and I am looking forward to carving again in the near future.

After the diagnosis of a bizarre health problem in 1994, my physical health did not allow me to carve, as my doctors me not to lift anything heavier than 15 pounds. As my condition was resolving, it was so important for me to get better, that I simply put carving "away". After Camp B, I now believe I can return to it. Advances in tools, and their much smaller sizes, the spirit of the carvers and the stone all let me know that the time is now. I am in the process of designing a space where I can carve stone again and hope to have a "stone room" by spring.

As we go through life, we come across different experiences which touch our lives forever. Camp Brotherhood was one of those moments for me. I will always cherish the days I spent with all of you, and how it has reawakened and redirected my life in its own way, and I thank all of you for that!

Michael Naranjo