This past Monday, October 9th, Rosemary and I wandered around Verona again. One of the nicest part of staying in an area for months is that we get to explore the backstreets. We have found some of the best parts of Italy away from the tourist areas.
Across Ponte Scaligero in the Borgo Trento Quartiere (one of the neighborhoods) is a former military complex called Arsenale that resembles a fort. In the US I think this is an Armory. The Arsenale is a series of buildings set around three large courtyards most of the buildings are two stories high, some are warehouses, some offices and some are meeting/conference halls. Today many of these are derelict and in desperate need of saving. Fortunately, some have already been renovated and are owned by different clubs, artists or art groups and many are city social agencies’ offices.
As is usual for us we were lucky this day to find an artist in his studio. I think he was waiting for friends from Paris to arrive, which they did while we were there. Peeking in a door I saw many large sculptures and as always I was hesitant to just enter but too intrigued to not do so. Stepping in I saw a man and asked the question “permesso?” to which he replied, “Please come in”. I still don’t know how they know so quickly that we are not natives. He introduced himself and told us that he lived in the US and taught at the University of Chicago. He still maintains a full studio in Chicago as well as this one in Verona his city of birth.
As we walked around the studio I was very moved by the power and expression of his art. I always hate to use this phrase but “it spoke to me”. I felt an energy and vitality that is (for me) usually missing in large metal sculpture. I freely admit to a bias toward metal sculpture but this work would have impressed me regardless of my predisposition to the format. He had works dating back to the 60’s up to today and it was fascinating to see how he responded to changes in society and culture. I am not certain if he was a leader of art movements or influenced by them but they were there to see like my history classes come to life. He had maquettes for large installation projects in American and Europe and pieces sold and unsold covering most of the available space in his studio and office but still had a project in process on his worktable. I would have enjoyed watching him work but it was not a workday for him, next time hopefully. When his friends arrived we said good-bye and left but not before giving him our business card for our blog.
His name is Virginio Ferrari and his work can be seen at: www.virginioferrarisculptor.com