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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 20, Page One of Three


Page One:
- Salvatore Polistena's Nostalgic Imagery

Page Two:
- Gabriela Lezcano and Alejandro Veneziani: Working as a Team

Page Three:
- Wonderland Puzzle
- Special Recognition for José Pelegrina in Puerto Rico
- Abby Levine and the Big Bend Area of Texas
- George Anderson's Art Education Project
- Abdulwahab Mihoub Exhibits in Algeria
- David Wickenden Completes Portrait of the Prime Minister
- Tayseer Barakat's Ziryab Café
- Sue Walters On The Go!
- Dino Muradian's "Adoration of the Shepherds"

Salvatore Polistena's Nostalgic Imagery

La Giovinetta
by Salvatore Polistena

Pyrography on wood panel

Image courtesy of the artist

In Touch with the Past

Italian pyrographic artist, Salvatore Polistena currently resides in Pisa in the northern part of Italy. However, he is originally from the region of Calabria, from the small city of Mileto located in the toe of the boot that is Italy. It was in Mileto that his artistic career began as well as an art movement that he co-founded with other artists there back in the 1960s.

Salvatore works in various media and over the years has exhibited with great success in numerous group and individual shows. His works are exhibited in both public and private collections in Italy, Northern Europe, Canada, Australia, and The United States of America.

Besides his pyrography and other art work, Salvatore spends some of his time organizing and participating in a special vacation package he calls an "artists' get-together without borders" on the beach in beautiful Calabria.

by Salvatore Polistena

Pyrography on wood panel

Image courtesy of the artist

A New Old Look

"I have noticed," Salvatore says, "that [pyrography] lends itself a great deal to works in decoration and is, in particular, a way of doing stupendous copies of old photos or reproductions of old prints and engravings."

Although Salvatore is well known for his excellent portraits, his portraits are not rendered in the usual technique of photorealism. Moreover, his copies and reproductions are not intended as exact replicas but are stylized interpretations. He incorporates contemporary details and techniques. He uses unexpected contrasts. At times he uses chiaro-oscuro to effect an antique look, yet it is not at all the look of works by Rembrandt and the other Old Masters of that technique. Likewise Salvatore makes use of a pointillism that is heavier and sporadic--not at all the pointillism made famous by Seurat and others of his era. In brief, he incorporates a wide variety of techniques in his own way and effectively creates his own personal style: It evokes nostalgia, it suggests memories, it touches the emotions. As one critic said, "[Salvatore creates] figures from time past projected into the present."

My Father
by Salvatore Polistena

Pyrography on wood panel

Image courtesy of the artist

"There is the older man in his everyday life [and] figures from time past projected into the present."

"Emotions and Spirituality": A Critique

Here are some translated excerpts from the writings of one (very poetic) critic of Salvatore's portraits:

The encounter of the visitor with the author is a wholly internal journey through his works, the gift of a generous spirit, rich in human values. One feels that he/she is traveling the path together [with the artist]; it is never a solitary or solipsistic path.

The protagonist of these works is the spirit, the emotional 'status' of the artist, which is at times embodied in the man child, at times in the feminine figure in all its sweetness, and at times in that of an elderly man.

The author appears to us as a new Dante journeying in the catharsis of life, guided by the masters towards the Master of the masters, the Absolute.

From the burnt wood an infinite sweetness shows through in a crowd of images evoked from memory.

Portrait of Fidio Bartalini
by Salvatore Polistena

Pyrography on wood panel

Image courtesy of the artist

An Art Movement

Salvatore recounts that it was 1960 when he felt the need with other artists to unite in order to give vent to their art and to free thinking, outside of the rigid dogmas then prevailing in the field of ethics as well as classist politics and a culture tied to the prevailing respectability.

The name they gave to their school of thought then was "Accademia degli Scapigliati" (Academy of The Disheveled), which came to be known in English as the Messy Hair Movement. The name came about because of the distinctive way they showed off their thick hair flying in the wind. No doubt it was also partially in deference to the original 19th Century art and literary movement that had come out of Milan in the north of Italy, which was likewise called Gli Scapigliati.

Their movement--complete with "hair flying in the wind"--was also their way to "go against the grain" to express (artistic) freedom outside of certain scripted (i.e., set) clichés.

by Salvatore Polistena

Pyrography on wood panel

Image courtesy of the artist

Moment of Discovery

It all started by chance one day when Salvatore had in his hand a simple 80-Watt soldering iron to heat some tin and wire he was going to use to decorate a table top. He noticed that the heated pieces of metal that had fallen on his worktable left sepia-colored marks very similar to the color of old time photographs. And also that those burn marks took on different tones according to the intensity and duration of the burn. It was this observation that led Salvatore to experiment with this new approach to drawing and to use the chiaro-oscuro that is part of what characterizes his distinctive style.

Now, in fact, Salvatore has bought a series of diverse soldering irons with a temperature control that he built himself; in addition, he is beginning to make points that he shapes with a file and other tools.

by Salvatore Polistena

Pyrography on wood panel

Image courtesy of the artist


View more of Salvatore Polistena's works, including some in other media, at the Salvatore Polistena website
and in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art as well.

Salvatore Polistena has a lot of irons in the fire these days.

Only recently he set off one day for nearby Carrara to get some of that famous marble to try his hand at sculpture.

He is already into planning and organizing the 2003 vacation get-together for artists and intellectuals that goes from May to September (except August) and takes place in a beach resort in the Calabria region (the southern tip of Italy's 'boot'). From all over, suggestions poured in from last summer's get-together, and Salvatore is more enthused than ever about the upcoming vacation season. He welcomes inquiries, so click on Artists' Get-Together in Calabria if you'd like more information.

Another goal of Salvatore's is to find an opportunity to receive commissions from the United States for his works in portraiture.

In regard to his pyrography, Salvatore currently wants to experiment doing some works combining this medium with figurative art. He is thinking he would apply color to create a veiled effect and yet at the same time leave it transparent enough to allow glimpses of the wood grain. He plans to start off by drawing a nude in a classical design such as in the style of Leonardo, then have the pyrography and painting gradually fade away creating an asymmetrical frame for the figure.

Perhaps one day soon the results of these intriguing ideas will turn up in a follow-up segment...

Click here to go to page two>>>

2002, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.