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Art & Museums

Saxonburg Artists Co-op will feature family's generations of work

| Saturday, July 12, 2014, 8:21 p.m.
Savino Cicconi displays his hand-carved ducks, a canvas back on the left, and a green-winged teal, in his New Kensington home on July, 9, 2014.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Savino Cicconi displays his hand-carved ducks, a canvas back on the left, and a green-winged teal, in his New Kensington home on July, 9, 2014.

Witness the work of a family of artists that spans generations at Saxonburg Area Artists Cooperative's “Cicconi/Cicconi Show: A Two Man Show from 1860 to Present Day.”

The installation will feature the contemporary artwork of Savino Cicconi of New Kensington, as well as the more romantic, classical pieces of his great-uncle, Ferdinando Cicconi.

Co-director Samuel Andrew says the co-op's 15th visiting-artist show is one of the most interesting and unique exhibitions the gallery has ever displayed.

“The biggest motivating factor was the ability to have museum-quality 1860 work along with 21st-century work in the same room at the same time from the same family,” Andrew says.

Ferdinando Cicconi was born in Colli del Tronto, Italy, in 1831. After discovering his talent for architectural drawing while attending seminary, he went on to hone his skills with classical training in oil painting.

Ferdinando is known for his elaborate frescos, depictions of landscapes and lifelike portraits. Some of his work still covers the ceilings of local theaters in Ascoli, Italy, and his mural of a martyr remains in the church Santa Felicia in Colli del Tronto.

Though much of his work was sold after his death in 1886, several pieces have remained in the family. Select paintings from around 1860 will be displayed for the first time at the “Cicconi/Cicconi Show.”

Savino Cicconi immigrated from Colli del Tronto to the United States in 1954 at age 6. Raised in Brackenridge, he attended St. Joseph Elementary School and graduated from Har-Brack High School in 1967.

Art was an escape for Savino, who had trouble learning English and maintaining high grades as a boy. He didn't have any post-graduate plans until his high-school art teacher recommended he go to college and become a teacher.

“He changed my life,” Cicconi says. After earning a bachelor of science degree in art education from Youngstown State University in Ohio, Cicconi perfected histechnique while simultaneously teaching art in Plum School District for 35 years.

His earliest work is the pop art he created in the 1970s and '80s. He then moved to sculpting decoy ducks in the late 1980s and '90s, which Andrew says are “beautifully realistic.”

Both his painting and sculpture will be exhibited.

Cicconi claims his newest projects, what he calls his “abstract, expressionalistic historical” collages, happened accidentally. They were inspired by a former student telling him to make something of globs of paint on a paper towel he was using to clean baby-food jars.

The artist, who builds his own frames and stretches his own canvases, crafts collages after newsworthy events and things that are important to him. The war in Iraq inspired his first collage, “Grief,” and he's fashioned others in response to major events like President Obama's election, Pope Paul II's passing and the trials and victories of Pittsburgh sports teams.

The gallery will hold a free reception to celebrate the exhibit's opening at 6:30 p.m. July 19. Guests will enjoy live music and refreshments and will have the opportunity to ask Savino Cicconi about his and his great-uncle's work.

Cicconi says his family always stressed the arts, but he advises people to pursue their passions, no matter what they are.

“Make a ripple,” he says. “Don't go through this life without doing something worthwhile.”

Emma Deihle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8513 or edeihle@tribweb.com.

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