I created this piece for my Dad, Scott Guziec, and in honor and memory of my Grandma Rose and recently departed Uncle Ken. It's about our family and how the many generations throughout history have shaped our lives today.
The first time I went to Italy in 2005, I traveled with my Aunt Kathy, Uncle Ken, Cousin Lauren and Grandma Rose. Among the many towns we visited, we also had the privilege to meet our Italian relatives in Lucca, the town where my Grandma was born. We met several members of her family from both her mother and father's side. What an incredible experience! Not only did they look like family but it felt like family and they welcomed us into their home. My favorite part was when we got to go to the actual house where my Grandma lived in Lammari, Capannori, a town in the province of Lucca. On their property was a very old barn that was believed to have been built by my Great-Great-Grandfather. My Grandma remembered it dearly. It was incredible to see her there, back in her home, reliving all the details and memories of her childhood. What a surreal experience for us all!
Little to my knowledge, my Uncle Ken learned the barn was going to be demolished. After knowing that, he took a piece from the barn -- a door hinge -- as a special remembrance and artifact. Upon our arrival back in the states, he gave the barn hinge to my Dad to keep. My Dad had this hinge for 9 years, never fully knowing what to do with it or how to display it properly. I don't blame him! It's loaded with sentimental value and it's also not an easy thing to frame or hang.
On the day of my Uncle's funeral service this May, my Dad presented me with the door hinge from Grandma's barn. He told me the story of how he had saved it all these years and said, "I wanted to give it to you, the artist. I know you will know what to do with it." What an emotional moment. All the memories came back to me of being with Grandma and Ken in Italy, standing by Grandma's barn, and learning the history of her upbringing. I knew I had to do it justice and do something that had special thought and meaning. My art is based around my emotional and personal memories and reflections, so creating a painting only seemed natural. I wanted to showcase the hinge properly, which is hand-forged and original, while letting it be free to be picked up and touched, not tied down permanently to the board.
Thanks to my parents, I had access to hundreds of old photos of my Grandma and her family from Italy. I came across copies of my Grandma's immigration ID cards, from when they entered the United States through Ellis Island when she was just a young girl. These images stuck with me the most in relation to the subject of the painting. Through their strength we exist. Their struggle and effort gave us our lives and the history of it is rooted deep in faith and love.
I used the photos in my painting as an image transfer, or when ink from a printed or drawn image is transferred onto the wax surface by burnishing. The main image in the center of Rose's Barn is of my Great-Grandmother Angela Bottari (Roggi), my Grandma Rosetta (right), and her brother Dominic (left). The small image to the right shows their father, my Great-Grandfather Pasquale Bottari, in front of a car, holding my Grandma up on his shoulders with his son Dom at his side. The text based images above are portions of Angela's immigration cards, where I learned new information about her life I never knew before. Her father's name is Angelo and her mother's name is Rosa. Angela was born June 14, 1900, with black hair and brown eyes and worked in their home as a caretaker. I feel such a connection to her! Seeing her face makes it so real. This is my family. I wish I could have met them but both Angela and Pasquale passed before I was born.
Creating this piece was a very emotional and sentimental experience. But at the same time, it felt easy to create and flowed naturally from my heart. I saw the composition in my mind and knew how the hinge should be placed. I found some old hand forged nails to compliment the nail within the center of the door hinge, so it could rest unattached on top. Another important detail to point out is an impression of a cross made from a necklace my Grandma wore, located in the center of the piece just up and to the right.
Below is an image gallery of the painting process:
The two glimpses of red represent the cardinals that I often see in times of need. As I said in the previous blog post, I believe the cardinals are the spirit of my grandparents who are always with me. The day of my Uncle Ken's funeral service, as I was walking into the Church I saw a bright red cardinal in a bush at eye level, singing loudly and looking right at me. It was both a reminder that God is always with us and also a sign to me that my Uncle is safe and at peace. I am so thankful for that blessing! I felt the presence of my Grandma and Uncle the entire process of making this piece. I hope I did it justice and they are both smiling together in heaven. It is truly my most favorite and meaningful piece I have ever created.