The Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco presents San Francisco artist Karen Wilberding Diefenbach’s recent bronze sculptures from Italy, The Pecore, at its Gallery at 814 Montgomery Street, San Francisco CA, November 1- December 14, 2012.
The exhibition will feature life-size and miniature bronze sculptures of thePecore Massese sheep, an endangered old-world species which has captivated the artist for many years, as well as paintings and works on paper created at the artist’s studio near Lucca, Italy.
Diefenbach, who received her MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute, has divided her time for the past 10 years between San Francisco and the village of Camaiore, Italy, which dates to Roman times. (Her house and studio are 15 minutes from the Lucca city walls.) Shortly after arriving, she discovered the local breed, an ancient species documented to 1400 AD and memorialized in Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca.
The animals, their shepherd, and the harsh beauty of their home in the Tuscan hills serve Diefenbach as both muse and metaphor. With long necks, spindly legs, anvil-shaped heads and black mantles, the Massese are at once vulnerable and enduring, sentinels of an ancient time grazing in the present-day. This duality is of past in present pervades Italy, in contrast to America, says Diefenbach, and has fundamentally changed her “notion of time.”
“The Italian Cultural Institute is proud to host an exhibit which reflects on Italy’s heritage and traditions from the perspective of a contemporary American artist,” says incoming Institute Director Paolo Barlera. “Karen genuinely feels at home in both cultures and her work speaks to universal issues and the difficult struggle to honor age, tradition and ritual amidst modernity.”
Seen on a Tuscan or San Francisco Bay Area hillside, Diefenbach’s life-size works appear disarmingly realistic; in a gallery setting, the artist’s craft and imagination and the spirit animating each figure become clear.
San Francisco art historian Paul Karlstrom has described Diefenbach’s sculptures as “mournful, enigmatic…bearers of meaning” and sees her forms as “a container for ideas.”
“The Pecore are really a blank canvas suitable for what I want to say. They provide me with a metaphor for ritual and survival in harsh surroundings, in their dignity, their fragility, the acceptance of their simple rituals, and the cycles of the years,” says Diefenbach.
Today Diefenbach’s survivors from another time are at risk of extinction. The Italian government has just launched an effort to save the Massese, whose numbers have fallen below sustainable levels for the first time ever. “If this exhibit can in any way ignite interest in saving these survivors from another age, I hope it will,” says the artist.
Tracy Freedman – Freedman Art Advisory
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