Maggi was the visiting sculptor at this year’s Magic of Marble Festival. He spent the past two weeks learning about Sylacauga’s rich history of white marble and carving into a few pieces himself.
“Sylacauga’s marble is very good,” Maggi said, as translated by Maria Griffitt. “It’s not the same quality as Italian marble, but it’s stiffer and better for sculpting. Every type of marble is best for a different type of sculpture, depending on what finish you want and what size and texture you’re working for.”
Maggi sculpted a piece called “Penelope and Ulysses” during the festival. The two-sided, rotating sculpture, which will remain on display at B. B. Comer Memorial Library, depicts the meeting of Maggi’s Mediterranean culture with his American discoveries.
“I imagined Penelope as Europe, the Mediterranean culture, the sophistication and nostalgia of classic Greek sculpture,” he said. “I thought of Ulysses metaphorically like America, the new country; the odyssey of the Achaean hero, his wanderings, his curiosity for new things, for the discovery of new worlds.”
Maggi personally chose the piece of Sylacauga marble he would use to create the sculpture, and only eight days later, it was complete.
“I, with my experience, my knowledge and wisdom inherited from my ancestors, leave a modest tribute to your fantastic country,” Maggi said of the sculpture.
Marble Festival director Ted Spears said Maggis’ talent is remarkable.
“He is the most stimulating and invigorating visitor we have had,” Spears said. “His attitude, his friendliness and his knowledge is the best thing we’ve ever encountered.”
Spears said Maggi’s comprehensive knowledge of stone has been a great advantage for the other marble sculptors in town.
“A lot of our visitors are interested in seeing the sights, eating the food, that sort of thing – not Renzo,” Spears said. “He is interested in art, and in sharing and collaborating with others. We ought to have a great deal of pride that such a delightful, genuine artist has visited and worked with Sylacauga marble.”
Birmingham-based sculptor Craigger Browne, who participated in the Marble Festival, said working with Maggi was incredible.
“I can’t verbalize what a great experience it was to work and learn from him,” Browne said. “He is a Renaissance man and a true sculptor. I don’t think anybody realized what a great talent we were getting.”
Maggi said the Marble Festival has been a great collaboration of sculptors.
“It has been perfect,” Maggi said. “I am very happy here and have enjoyed working here. Everyone has been wonderful to me.”
Maggi has traveled to larger cities in the United States like New York City and Austin, Tx., but said Sylacauga feels like home.
“It’s not as busy as the larger cities, and the air is open,” he said. “Everything is green and beautiful. This environment and climate has been healthy to me.”
One of Maggi’s favorite treats about the South, besides talking to the women and learning about the marble, he said, is breakfast food.
During his trip, he frequented the Huddle House next to his hotel, Towne Inn, where he started every day with two eggs, hash browns, bacon, toast and coffee.
“It’s the best breakfast in the world,” Maggi said.
Maggi lives with his wife, Elana, and two sons in Versillia, Italy, where he works out of his studio in Pietrasanta. He is praised as one of the remaining five sculptors in the country who sculpts pieces completely by hand.
Maggi said he began sculpting as a child, a trade he learned from his father.
“It is a family tradition,” he said. “In my region, many, many people work in marble. About 20,000 people work in it, either sculpting or cutting out squares to send around the world or shipping it.”
Maggi has works around Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia – and now he has left his mark in Sylacauga, which he said was a special trip.
“I am so thankful to everyone,” he said. “I hope to come back one day. I will never forget this experience.”
Contact Emily Adams at email@example.com.