Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Erector Square: Joseph Saccio

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Joseph Saccio
Oct. 13, 2007.

Sculptor Joseph Saccio's Erector Square studio is so chockfull of materials for potential pieces that it's a wonder he has space left to work. There are tangled tree branches, trunks, scraps of logs and lumber, plastic blinds all rolled up, doll parts. Maquettes for larger sculptures. Finished and unfinished works dating back to his first pieces in the late 1960s. (I knelt down to look at one of his earliest works—an untitled landscape with sun crafted out of welded scrap metal filled with plaster and framed by a steel rectangle, an influence of David Smith. When I got up, I banged my head on another piece, "Splitting", recently shown at the ALL Gallery. I consider the small cut on my scalp a site-specific collaboration with a Saccio sculpture.)

Saccio currently has work in a two-person show at Kehler Liddell Gallery. Now retired after a career as a child psychiatrist at Yale, he told me he's always been an artist. He was art editor of his high school newspaper and did a lot of drawing and illustrating. But he didn't step into the aesthetic third dimension until he took a class with sculptor Ann Lehman in the late 1960's and learned welding. Thereafter he also learned how to carve wood and stone.

He spent three or four summers in Italy learning to carve marble, losing his high frequency hearing to the relentless din of the air hammer. A couple of unfinished marble works are stored in the studio. Saccio pulled out the models for them and explained how he uses reference points and triangulation to translate ideas from the models to the larger works.

I asked him what his particular attraction was to wood as a sculptural material.

"It's easier to work with than stone. You can make mistakes and correct them or go with them. If you make a mistake with stone, it's the end of the piece," he said. "That it was a living thing and had a life of its own appeals to me. That's a big thing for me in the work that I do."

Saccio lost his son Milos in 1979, when Milos was 12 1/2 years old.

"That had a profound impact. I made all sorts of memorials for him," said Saccio. He had a weeping beech tree planted at Foote School, which is thriving to this day.

Referring to the work that I banged my head on, I asked him about his penchant for extruding different forms from a base form. It's symbolic, said Saccio, of the issue of death and subsequent reemergence and resurgence, a theme prompted by his grief over Milos' death.

"A form that's been broken, killed, split but something new emerges from the base," he explained. In the case of "Splitting," rattan rods sprout from a split hardwood railroad tie.

A good bit of studio space is taken up by a work in progress. "Tempieto" is inspired by a one-room temple created by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi, which Saccio noted is "always cited as a perfect example of that kind of classic structure."

The tall circular structure is supported by columns made of old hollow wood porch columns Saccio found on the street. The weathered paint is flaking off the surface and their vertical edges are torn. Saccio split them lengthwise and is "playing with the idea of a single column exploding into a larger column." Between the wood columns and forming a dome is screening over a heavier metal mesh support.

"I'll probably paint this and give it a surface so it looks green and plants will take over," he said.

I wondered if it was being built for a particular commission.

"No, I just wanted to make a temple," Saccio said. He has turned down requests in the past to work on a commission because he wanted to be unconstrained in expressing his own personal feelings. But he added that now that he devotes full time to sculpture, he might consider a commission "if the subject matter appealed to me."

His Erector Square studio has been his artistic workspace for 17 years.

"I love it. For me, the studio is a work in progress. I collect everything I see that's interesting," Saccio enthused. "It becomes my own personal environment."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well written article.

6:36 AM

Blogger david said...

where can i find the work or pictures of the work of sculpturs nathan knobler and ray hitchcock...former uconn professors?


2:44 PM


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