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  Field Notes From
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ZipUSA: 05641 On AssignmentArrows

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From Photographer

Cary Wolinsky

ZipUSA: 05641 On Assignment

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From Author

Margaret G. Zackowitz

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Mark Thiessen (top) and Brian Strauss


ZipUSA: 05641

Field Notes From Photographer
Cary Wolinsky

Best Worst Quirkiest
    Watching the intense concentration on the face of sculptor Giuliano Cecchinelli as he shaped the delicate feet of Jesus in stone transported me back to 16th-century Florence. His tousled hair and beard were caked with dust. Other local sculptors gripped cutting tools with gloves; he maneuvered a steel chisel with bare hands. His son—and namesake—worked beside him, bringing his own skills to the piece and enduring his father's criticism. Shafts of Rembrandt light cut through the brown, antique hulk of a building and made the workspace glow. The "Pietà" emerged from a gigantic block of stone.
    Then the hammering whine of Giuliano's pneumatic chisel broke my spell and returned me to present-day Barre, Vermont. The sculptor—who was born in Carrara, Italy—and his son were putting the finishing touches on a memorial for a customer who wanted a copy of Michelangelo's "Pietà." Coaxing fine sculpture from hard granite takes a determined and gifted artist. Cecchinelli is one of the best and a pleasure to observe.

    During my 30 years of travel for National Geographic, I've kept a list of jobs I'd least like to have. I found one more to add in Barre.
    Each large stone-carving shed houses a sandblasting shop: closed, hot rooms where very special artists work on memorial stones. After workers remove heavy rubber stencils, the stones are rolled into the shop and positioned next to bright lights. Sandblast artists wear heavy protective clothing and helmets that cover the head and fit down over the shoulders. Using air under high pressure, they spray sand or steel pellets through a fine nozzle. The noise is deafening. Something akin to a brutal sandstorm fills the air. The artists work inches from the surface of the stone, skillfully cutting floral designs into the nearly finished monuments. They see through a slit in the helmet covered with sheets of plastic that must be replaced at intervals during the creation of a single flower.  One small slip can destroy a $6,000 stone.
    They're good, but this is not a job for me.

    Lucio Carusi is a gifted sculptor who lives in Carrara, Italy's stonecutting center.  To put together his retirement, he went to Barre and took a job with Rock of Ages, the largest memorial maker in the United States.
    All the sculptors in town admired his commissions. In two months he could reduce a massive block of granite to a graceful, ten-foot-high (three-meter-high) angel or a saint holding a child. When I met him, he was packing his tools to return to Italy. I told him I was sorry I missed the opportunity to photograph him at work.  "Oh, I could make something small," he said. "I am supposed to contribute a piece to the local gallery show this weekend." 
    He toed through the dinner-plate-size granite chips that littered the floor and scooped one up. Quickly—very quickly—he worked the surface with a chisel. From rough rock a smooth, nude woman appeared. Her fingers slid up her temples, through her hair, and back into stone. In less than an hour it was finished, mounted, and headed to the gallery.
    It was a beautiful piece, and I was hot on its trail. My wife's birthday was only a few weeks away.

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