of myriad shapes in cocoa and bronze, copper and smoky black,
and in bas-relief —a ripe pear dangling from a leafy branch, the
swirling pinwheel petals of a sunflower in motion. These are the
organic tile compositions of internationally known Italian
sculptor, Siglinda Scarpa. And right along-side these
Elemental in Nature
Like a medieval alchemist, Scarpa
mixes minerals — copper oxide, iron, cobalt — with sawdust for
combustion, in a centuries-old Chinese firing technique. With
her hands she kneads this volatile elixir that, in the searing
heat of the kiln, will coalesce with the
clay, capturing an image in its
surface of the elements themselves — fire and earth.
Scarpa hand rolls the clay for her
variegated tiles. These half-inch slabs are bisque-fired to a
leather-hard texture, with some edges squared, some beveled and
others left ragged and irregular. “I like that these shapes are
uncontrolled. The imperfection touches me,” says the artist. She
cuts and breaks her slabs into varied shapes and sizes from six,
eight, 10 inches to fragments a mere fraction of an inch.
A visit to this
artist’s studio, the Goathouse Gallery, gives insight into the
source of the decoration that Scarpa sculpts and molds and
carves into her tiles. Walls of glass overlook rambling gardens.
Water and trees, sky, flowers,
images in the sun-struck Pittsboro studio of this artist in
clay, are radiant, flaming, dancing shapes
— plunging, coiled, unfolding, ebullient figures, like-
wise inspired by nature. Where one is sensual, the other
is exuberant. Side by side, these latest works by the
renowned ceramic virtuoso signify the breadth and depth
of her creative genius.