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Instagram Has Been Good to Me

Instagram has helped me scratch off yet another item on my Bucket List and meet top knotch sculpting instructors from whom I've taken workshops over the last three years. My most recent out-of-town instructor is no exception and has truly exceptional talent. Meet Mario Chiodo. I can remember telling one of my previous instructors, Brian Booth Craig, that one day I hoped to be able to meet Mario, because not only was he kind and encouraging in his feedback as I began my sculpting endeavors and posted them on Instagram, but I loved how he utilized his art as a medium to represent monuments of iconic role models of courage, hope, persistence, and justice. How surprised and delighted I was this past January when I received a message from Mario, saying he was having a sculpting workshop at his studio in Napa and he invited me to come. It took a while for me to figure out how to make it happen, and I had to cancel two more local workshops to make it work, but where there is a will, there is a way, and I was able to get there. I hope you'll join me as I take you along on some of the adventures there, to see some of Mario's 40 year sculpting journey which has evolved from creating really detailed and imaginative monster masks that are beautifully composed, some of which are designed to be horrific and some of which are adorable. More recently, Mario has created angels symbolizing various internal states, with large evocative and expressive wings the likes of which you've never seen.

One of Mario’s monuments that is so worth seeing is "Remember Them" which resides in an underprivledged section of Oakland and was created after 911 to represent champions of humanity and give us a renewed sense of hope to turn tragedy into peace. I've always wanted to see it, so after landing in San Francisco, my husband and I took a side trip there. It doesn't disappoint and was 11 years in the making. Talk about perserverance! I think it may possibly be the largest monument I've ever seen and I can't imagine taking on such an immense project. Here are a few photos from Mario's work, but believe me, my photos don't do it justice, and they're not all-inclusive.

The photos could go on and on, with many more people sculpted, but I hope Gandhi, Maya Angelo, Ruby Bridges, and so many others will forgive me for not picturing them. Not only were Mario's portraits and figures outstanding, but the monument included sculpted biographies of each person, subtly encouraging the viewer to read and learn more about those portrayed. Surrounding the outside of the monument were small simpler sculpted faces of each person with quotes in braile and in script, so visually impaired people can touch the faces and read quotes from each person as well.

As for the workshop itself, Mario and his staff were ever so gracious, both to me and to my husband, providing a breakfast snack, letting my husband come for lunches and for wine and cheese when the work day ended...Hey, it's Napa, right?!!! From the get-go, Mario's Director of Chiodoart Development, Francine Agapoff, was so helpful in terms of recommending accomodations and is enjoyable to spend time with in-between and after class time. She's worked for Mario for 29 years, which says a lot of good things about both of them. Mario's Executive Assistant, Gabriel, took the class with me and is a natural sculptor, nice guy, and a pretty gregarious and self-motivated person, making the class even more enjoyable. The excellent food, snacks, and comradely that they provided were second to none.

After the first post-work gathering, once my husband and I got back to the hotel, my husband said to me, "Mario really tries, doesn't he?" I knew exactly what he meant. Mario has a natural way of being able to relate to any human being from pretty much any walk of life. His work has taken him to meet many iconic celebrities and figures as well as their families and he shares stories of their encounters in a manner that is both humble and sensitive. With students, he gently begins to ask questions in the sort of style that a therapist would, helping people slowly begin to feel comfortable around him and he is patient to let a sense of trust naturally develop.

I hope you'll enjoy seeing many of the fun pieces Mario has sculpted over the years, some of which were for his mask company that he owned before opening his Napa studio.

As for me, I’m a pretty slow sculptor, so learning to try to copy some of Mario’s work in a really short time (3 days) was a challenge and being exposed to the incredible compositions and textures was a new level of complexity at which I may never arrive, but exposure to it is the first step.

Here is a photo of an unfinished piece I attempted to sculpt from a live figure model who was positioned in the same pose as one of Mario’s works. I could only finish this much in two days, but  Mario did give me some tips to learn to sculpt faster muscle definition so we'll see how that goes.

This is the piece the model’s pose is from:

It was a quick three days, and although I started a number of pieces, for a slow sculptor like me, I didn’t get any of them completed.

Still, aside from the figure above, here are a few other pieces I began in addition to the two day figure attempt. I spent about an hour on the hand below. You can see I need to redo angles, but I’m now working on it from home. I never imagined that I could get so much done in 3 days, even though the sculptures are unfinished.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, but I left Mario’s workshop with good tips, new ideas of texture and composition that it will take time to integrate, and a lot of good memories…

And before going home, there was a bit of a brief vacation in Carmel and Monterrey :

And on the home front Spring has sprung!

So until next time, stay creative!


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