My experience working for artist Angelo Ciotti
In the summer of 1990 I spent three months working for artist Angelo Ciotti. It was an interesting apprenticeship where I participated in helping with a few of his many installation pieces, including a large land reclamation project. I had graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh the previous fall, where he had been one of my more influential professors. It was an unusual job in that instead of a paycheck I actually lived with his family for the three months that I worked for him. It was a unique exposure to the life of being a “fine artist.”
The Twin Stupas Project
This was a land reclamation project that he had partnered with the PA DNR to turn an old abandoned strip mining site into a more ecological landscape with an added artistic flare. This project was well underway by the time I arrived on scene.
You can learn more about this project on the artist’s site: The Twin Stupas Project
Below are photos of the land being shaped by an enormous bulldozer. The photo of the three men are artists Michael Pestel, Angelo Ciotti, and the heavy equipment operator whose name I do not recall.
"Pittsburgh, an Industrial Garden"
Angelo’s installation piece, “Pittsburgh, and Industrial Garden,” was chosen to be one of five large pieces installed in Point State Park during the 1990 Three Rivers Arts Festival. It was an exciting experience to be part of setting this prestigious event.
For me the most memorable part was the drama surrounding the name of one of the other artist’s pieces. The artist had named his sculpture of an ironworker using a word the local mill workers found racially derogatory. This led to a lot of negative press, which led to crowds coming to see the piece.
Another piece that I have old photos of is of an installation piece we placed along the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I cannot recall the name of the piece. All I can remember is that soon after installing it some over-enthusiastic visitors threw it into the river. Sometimes it helps to find humor in things like that!
There were a number of other things that I participated in during those three months as an artist’s apprentice. It was an interesting experience living with his family, and I learned a lot about the politics of being a scholarly-trained “fine artist.” After my three months were completed, I returned to more commercial work as to pay off my student loans and wanted to forge my own artistic path. I will never forget that summer.