Italian art and crafts in California
No, it is not an oxymoron nor a geographical riddle, it is not a play on words nor a political statement. It recognizes a simple reality: just as in any other field, Italian artists and craftsmen who have left their home country to take residence in California are making an impact on the American artistic and cultural landscape. They may be residents, or they may have taken the final step and become American citizens, but they have learned and perfected their crafts in Italy, they have learned the traditions and the techniques of the great masters, they have refined them with modern materials and techniques, and they have transplanted their hard-gained expertise, jealously guarded, carefully nurtured, to the shores of the Pacific. And we are all winners for it.
Ancient Techniques Kept Alive
These are artists who work in fields in which Italians have traditionally excelled: the visual arts, jewelry design, photography, architecture, ceramics, sculpture, etc. Some of them use little-known methods that have their roots in the practices of the artisan guilds of the Renaissance. Meticulously, lovingly, their hands move expertly to apply a dab of refined gold, to correct the sweep of a line, to smooth a stone surface, to coax a recently-baked tile into accepting a final coat of lacquer. They do these things just as their forefathers did in the botteghe of Florence, Venice, and Rome.
New Technologies? Only After Meticulous Scrutiny
New methods, new equipment, are always suspect to such people: they may be ultimately adopted, but only after undergoing the severest scrutiny. Italian artists of this stripe are largely immune to economic imperatives: they ply their craft for love, to keep alive family and guild traditions of centuries, to spread beauty in the world, and ultimately to enhance the quality of life of all of us. Just as Enzo Ferrari claimed to want to build his ultimate automobile with no regard to whether it sold or not, these artists work to satisfy their inner aesthetic imperatives rather than the commercial exigencies of the marketplace.
Where will you find such artists?
Their physical addresses span the state: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Menlo Park, San Jose’, etcetera, etcetera. With a sprinkling of outliers from out of state whose contributions are too important to ignore. They include such figures as Davide Bigazzi, master Florentine jewelry designer, Angelica Di Chiara, whose evocative Italian landscapes and cityscapes tug at the heartstrings of Italians and non-Italians alike, Paola Pafumi, whose ceramics exhibit a unique blend of beauty and practicality. And, are you ready for this – Baron Schaffer, whose non_Italian name belies the reality of his so-very-Italian photographic art.
These artists, and others, are or will be featured on this very site. Get to know them: if you love Italian art and culture the benefits will be substantial.