A quarter-century ago, artist Salvatore Pecoraro and a team of assistants spent all summer creating a huge sculpture of marble, travertine and bronze to mark the entrance to a stunning new house in the Danville community of Blackhawk.
Because of the scale of the piece -- about 20 feet high, resting in a reflecting pool that is 32 feet across -- every step was carefully planned. The intent, Pecoraro says, was to create a work that appeared to have been worn by time, a relic of a bygone civilization.
"I wanted to make a piece that looked destroyed before its time," Pecoraro says.
At 76, after more than five decades of making and teaching art in the Bay Area, the sculptor/painter is revisiting some of his
He certainly is not dead. Even after two knee replacements and an ankle replacement, byproducts of the physically taxing labors of sculpting mammoth pieces, Pecoraro is at work on new commissions and paintings at his 10,000-square-foot studio in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Last month, he checked how the passage of time has treated his designed-to-look-destroyed artwork, a favorite. More than two decades after last seeing it, he returned to the Blackhawk home of Patricia and Kenneth Behring, the real estate developer and philanthropist,
"I wanted to see how it aged with the rest of us," Pecoraro told Patricia Behring with a smile, upon meeting her in the entrance courtyard of her hilltop home.
The black marble base of Campobello di Mazara, named for the hometown in Sicily of Pecoraro's father, now has a blue-green patina in places where the cast-bronze beams have weathered. A chip of red travertine about the size of a piece of toast had fallen onto the marble base. And the dark bottom of the reflecting
"Having not been here for 20 years, it's like visiting a friend or a child. It's a very personal thing," he said.
He noted, however, that creating the sculpture required the effort of many people, from his students to the Behrings' famous interior designer, the late Steve Chase, who introduced his clients to Pecoraro in 1986.
"You can't make something like this by yourself; you need a cadre of people with a lot of skill and knowledge and who can follow instructions," Pecoraro said. "I don't take credit for the entire job, but I do take credit for a lot of the physical labor."
When a piece of the white travertine shipped from Italy turned out to be much too large for his design, Pecoraro carved it down to size. When the final piece of black Spanish marble for the sculpture's base was 3 inches too narrow, Pecoraro found stone to fill the gap. The cast-stone elements originally were 16 inches too tall; Pecoraro used a jackhammer to batter them down to size.
Behring said she and her husband are proud to have Campobello di Mazara as part of the landscape at their Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired house. "This is ageless, and it's a beautiful piece," she said, remarking that her grandchildren called the white travertine ovoids "dinosaur eggs."
Pecoraro declined to say how much he charged for the 18-ton-plus sculpture, but the cost involved his visit to Italy to choose stone and oversee its preparation. Delighted about seeing the sculpture again last month, he said he's sorry more people can't see it on its private site.
Two of his other sculptures, however, are publicly accessible: the fountain in front of the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino and the one at Sunnyvale's community center.
Pecoraro studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts, where Richard Diebenkorn was his drawing and painting instructor, then earned a master's in printmaking at San Francisco State in 1966. He was teaching art at De Anza High School in Oakland at just 21 and at De Anza College in Cupertino from
Jennifer DiNapoli commissioned the artist to create something for her Los Gatos home in 2004. The result is "Lost & Found," a mixed-media work above her living-room fireplace, and two stone, glass and copper sculptures about 8 feet tall.
DiNapoli said she and her husband liked Pecoraro's ideas. "I didn't want something to go with my beige sofa, " she said, laughing. "I wanted somebody that had artistic integrity." His art is "fun to live around -- it's interesting and challenging and not boring," she said.
Pecoraro's wife, Diane, a retired kindergarten teacher, says her husband always has been passionate about his art, even though handling heavy, unwieldy materials has taken a toll on his body. "I remember him in and out of the reflecting pool, jumping" while he was working on the Flint Center sculpture. She was concerned about his back. "But you know, when you have a passion for something, you love what you do, and you follow it."
The Pecoraros, who have been married for 50 years, have two sons and a daughter.
The love of creating art continues to push Pecoraro forward. Now he's working on a sculpture for a client's home in Los Altos, and he's preparing one of his most famous works -- a collection of paintings called "365 Skies, 1970," for the upcoming Triton Museum show. The enormous piece is formed by 3651-foot-square paintings depicting the sky, based on photos Pecoraro took each day in 1970.
His Facebook page ("Salvatore Pecoraro Contemporary Painting and Sculpture") is active with new posts about his activities; his website is www.salvatorepecoraro.com.
Pecoraro's counsel for those who want to add artwork to their homes or landscapes is simple: Make sure you understand the artist's vision -- and vice versa -- and don't think of art as an investment.
"These young people that have money ... shouldn't buy something because other people are buying it and it's going to be worth more later. If that's an excuse for buying art, you've lost your money before you even started," he said. "You buy something because you can afford it and you love it."
Contact Sue McAllister at 408-920-5833. Follow her at Twitter.com/suemcal.