By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern
How many times have you passed the public art piece on South Tryon, or fumbled through an explanation of it to a non-local?
“I know it’s called the Firebird, but I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.”
We learn how to process oil paintings on museum walls, but when it comes to sculpture, we sometimes struggle to know just what our response should be. Cognizing sculptures in our daily spheres can be confusing, but as Community Supported Art participant Jonathan Pellitteri says, being confused is okay.
Jonathan became exposed to art in college and everything changed. He switched his major from industrial design to fine art, a move also influenced by his dad, who was an architect. Throughout school, Pellitteri did carpentry and masonry to make money, which translates into his sculpting through the materials and processes he utilizes. Prior to obtaining his master’s degree from LSU, Pellitteri worked as an artist in residency at North Dakota State University and at a Swiss museum.
Although the artist’s family has only been in Charlotte since 2012, he is encouraged by the public art climate, observing that, “Public art [is] part of the way we develop new areas…Charlotte has been embracing that for some time.”
At first, Pellitteri’s pieces were inspired by a technology saturated world. His thesis, entitled Build a Better Mousetrap, featured sculptures constructed with timeless materials. Hints of the digital era were involved as a commentary on how technology entraps us.
Now, his outlook on social media has evolved.
“I think there are a lot of possibilities as far as using it in an installation,” he said. “I don’t know how to make it a part of my work…but I wouldn’t rule it out yet.”
Currently, Pellitteri is operating as a full-time studio artist. When asked if he feels his artwork requires extra explanation because sculpture is his chosen medium, he answered, “Yes and no. In a sense…[it] creates a narrative. It allows people to project themselves inside of it. People typically don’t say what’s that, I don’t get it, because there’s something recognizable in the work.”
Simply put, we don’t need to shy away from sculpture; it’s actually comprised of the familiar.
For instance, Pellitteri’s CSA project consists of a Catawba River recreation made of landscaping materials and homasote, a papier-mâché like substance made from recycled paper.
“Essentially what I’ll do is carve the channel of the river into blocks of homasote and then divide it into fifty individual pieces,” he said. “So each person will have an individual part of the river.”
That individual part will contain crushed up bricks to mimic the red of Carolina clay, and based on some estimation, Pellitteri believes the bricks he’s using were made regionally.
So next time you see the Firebird, or any Charlotte sculptural installation, stay awhile and find the intersection between its story and yours.
Click here to view Jonathan’s work.