Monday April 28, 2014
I awoke with great excitement this morning. We had an extremely rare opportunity to get to spend time with internationally-renowned sculptor, Livio Seguso. At age 84, he works with continued vigor on his art, and he was incredibly welcoming to our visit.
We arrived at Livio’s door right as scheduled at 10am. We were greeted by his trusted assistant of 14 years, Takako. We stepped into the vestibule between the massive wooden external doors and the beautiful steel and glass doors inside. Domenico quickly informed me that Livio had designed and built the magnificent internal doors.
As the internal doors opened, they revealed an incredible showroom, and Livio emerged from the far end of the space with a very warm smile and an outstretched hand to shake. As I would learn through the course of our tour, Livio’s displays are intended less as a sales space, and much more as his own personal museum. A space where he can keep many of the pieces that are an expression of the soul he has revealed to himself and the world through his 70-year career as a maker.
Livio was very pleased to hear of how I hoped to document my trip to share important information and stories from his home island. However, he admitted, and several other folks on Murano pointed out, that he does not really fit into the Murano glass tradition story. By the end of our visit, it was quite obvious that he has really created his own niche as a sculptor, working in many different media…beyond the constraints of Muranese glassmaking traditions and techniques. He loves and respects his home very much, but he and his work are indeed a great departure from the rest of the island.
He was a gracious host as we toured his space.
His collection sprawls throughout several rooms. It is organized both by chronology and bodies of work. We started with the earliest of his works and progressed from one room to the next. His very early works did contain some color, and some were a bit representational. However, those were really only experiences that would lead him to his broader connections as a sculptor.
What seems most important to him is to listen to his materials and converse with them—whether it be glass, metal, wood, stone, or marble—he allows the material to reveal itself. He wants the purity of the materials to balance and dance with light and space. Hence, the majority of the glass elements in his work are clear or very subtle transparent colors. After this most enlightening and inspiring tour, I sat down with Livio to discuss his work.
Livio’s life and art career have been well-documented, and as I mentioned earlier, he does not fit into the general theme of Murano glass traditions. It is rare for him to do interviews, and there was no way I was going to waste this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I asked what suggestions he had to assist young artists in their pursuit to find and develop their own voices. He paused for a moment to contemplate. Then, he began an incredible heartfelt monologue for the ages. I understand enough Italian to get much of the gist of what he was saying. Domenico would fill me in on much of it later. It was a very powerful experience.
Livio emphasized the need for an artist to learn to be true to the materials with which they work. One must develop a respectful relationship with the materials, and spend countless hours with the medium to truly develop the proper connection that will allow their true expression. He insisted there is no formula for this development. Spending time with one’s hands on the material…experimenting and listening to the material and its possibilities will allow the artist to create the heartfelt connection with the material that will then allow the artist to deliver their expressions through the material.
As Domenico and I left Livio’s studio, we both admitted to having goosebumps for the entire 3-hour visit. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’m quite certain I will never be able to approach glass in the same way ever again. The experience with Livio opened my eyes to possibilities I had not yet imagined, and this was only my first interview!
Our day Tuesday began with a visit to the studio of Lucio Bubacco and turned into a 15-hour race around Murano and Venice to catch some amazing opportunities.
Stay tuned for more posts in this Glass Pilgrimage series where Eric visits artists Lucio Bubacco, Dario Frare, Igor Balbi, Cesare Toffolo, Davide Salvadore, Pietro and Ricardo Ferro, Moreno Bardello, Simone Crestani, and Marco Salvadore, toolmaker Roberto Doná, and visits family owned and operated glass factories SALIR, Fratelli Toso, and Signoretto Lampadari.