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Finding Fidardo Landi – A story in a dream

January 27, 2011

(Sometimes there is a little more to the dreams we have. This is a story that came to me in a dream in November. One night before I went to sleep I was thinking about my great-grandfather Fidardo Landi, a sculptor from Carrara, Italy, and wishing I had a chance to meet him. Unfortunately he passed away some 45 years before my arrival.  Still, as I sat on my bed staring at four photos of his work, I wished I knew what made these statuaries more unique than, say, something I could buy at a garden center. I am not a professional artist and I beg forgiveness for not knowing the process with which one sculpts. He had a knack, however, for sculpting children and adolescents. They are more real. Their young faces are adorable. Each time I look at these statues I am smitten by them. They come alive to me. I immediately want to tickle their little baby bellies and kiss their fat cheeks. So, it is with that background that I explain this dream.).

I walked into the tiny studio, its ceilings high, and moved across a creaky old wooden floor. The room was dark except for a small light near a seating area. Great-grandpa Landi was working on the clay version of Hiawatha, part of a three figure statue called the Redfield Monument in Syracuse, N.Y. His face lit up as he walked from around the back of the clay statue into the light and said, “It’s nice to meet you.”  His face was so bright, genuinely happy. His eyes smiled.

Without saying a word we sat down across from each other and drank each other in. I wanted to ask him questions about what inspired him as an artist. How did he see his work?  (Even in my dreams I’m still reporting.)

He seemed to already know why I was there and was eager to share information with me. I would appreciate it, cherish the information and respect what he was telling me.

Throughout our conversation he kept smiling at me. He was beaming, really. He had been given a gift, for just a moment, to see the future through the eyes of his great-granddaughter (one of 12 great-grandchildren, and 24 great, great-grandchildren). His smiling eyes look familiar.  The nose. The lips. The way he sat. I see a bit of my entire family, but I particularly see the smiling eyes of my oldest brother Brian and my younger brother Joe. When they look at me as we’re talking they focus the same way. It’s a smile that starts in the heart and move straight up to their mouth and then bursts through their eyes. A joke or quip is definitely in the offing.

The light in great grandpa’s smile is so welcoming to me. It’s as if I just haven’t seen him in a few years rather than just met him in a dream. As if, he is still working in Carrara, Italy and I am here in the United States. He knew I adored his wife, my great-grandmother, Louisa Biggi Landi. I couldn’t wait to start asking questions.

In my dream I could feel myself filling with energetic anxiety, the way I do when I am about to talk non stop; heart racing, chest filling excitement. Great grandpa is amused.

Holding a graphite pencil and a sketch pad, he begins to draw. I see him drawing the lines of a face. There is a partial outline. A hint of nose. Two stokes place the arms. One starts the back. Then he begins filling in the lines until this sketch takes shape. He explains that this is his process.

“You fill in the lines until it takes shape and you can see it smile. Or until the viewer can see it smile, like holding someone’s face in both your hands,” he said. “Children radiate life. They have a natural joy, a curiosity that has to be shown.”

“Statues have to have dimension to come to life,” he explained. “The Mermaids are an example of that curiosity and innocence extended out and into life by the way they are posed over the water.”

I told him I imagine what it must have felt like to tackle the clay (work of a sculptor).

“You want to try to feel the movements of each part of the body until it sets into place, giving it a lasting look, as if it is about to move again. A smile about to breathe. A head that lifts.

“Hiawatha’s arm, for example. Look at it. Hiawatha looks like his arms are about to move while he straightens his back. A warm greeting to follow,” he points out.

“I enjoyed casting children and adolescence because they weren’t jaded by life. They still had their curiosity. They were happy. That’s an image I always tried to portray.”

“To work with the best (other known sculptors) was truly an honor. I did what needed to be done.”

He paused. I could see him thinking about all of this for a moment.

“Don’t overdue it. Don’t force the work.  Hands and cheekbones assume importance, followed by the head and muscles of the back. It has to look like it is about to move again, about to speak.”

“For me, it was an honor to create works of art for generations and many people to see.”

(That is Fidardo Landi’s story. It is something worth dreaming about.)

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