I was lining up a shot of some current work in progress at the studio when I heard Wonjoo’s voice call my name. Standing next to her was a spirited gentleman with salt and pepper hair, a well-groomed beard and covered in wood chips and shavings. When he introduced himself, his eyes shown brightly with an energy about him that exuded excitement. Meet Stefano Catalani, an Italian American artist, curator at the Bellevue Museum in Seattle Washington, (U.S.) and this years Scholar in Residence at the ITE.
Stefano is a dual citizen of Italy and the US, currently living in Seattle Washington. His roots reach half way around the world to Rome, where hints of his youth can still be heard in the accent of his voice. Indeed, like a child, his excitement reflected his current discovery and fascination with the process of woodturning. Having never turned before, he had been incessantly working on the lathe all week – making bowls and practicing the new skills he had learned from the residents.
As we got acquainted, he looked and acted more like a working artist than a scholar. Admittedly, I had expected a more studious looking type, probably someone quiet in nature – while being observant of the activity in the ITE studio. Isn’t that what a scholar looks like when they do what they do? My assumptions revealed a stereotypical view – and Stefano Catalani is anything but stereotypical.
Stefano explained more about the intent behind his participation in this years program. I learned his process of study is inclusive of tactile, hands on experience in addition to observation. His methods were driven by immense curiosity, complimented by intellect, innate creative skills and a supreme sense of self. Pride and identity began to emerge from Stefano’s worktable and I asked him what we was working on.
“I am making pasta!”, he said. “I am Italian, I love food – it is what I am supposed to do – right?” He distinctly looked at me for a reaction. Perhaps a bit slow on the uptake, I was waiting for more information. “You Americans are too gullible”, he said with a laugh – his wry smile accentuated by his twisty mustache. He resumed mixing from piles of wood shavings, flour and egg yokes and continued to flash glances at me as he explained how he loves to challenge stereotypes. “The piece I am working on addresses a stereotypical view of Italians. “We love food and we love to eat – I am no exception.” But Stefano IS an exception – an exceptional thinker and practitioner of the humanities through making art.
This project was to be the last of Stefano’s week long visit; a work in progress and a study of one of the tenants of The ITE program – Collaboration. Purposely left unfinished, he has asked each resident to contribute to the effort. Come to the opening exhibition – Friday, Aug 6th, 2010 at The Wood Turning Center – to see Stefano’s piece we all will have had a hand in – together.