Sculpture Saturday: Mattiacci’s Eye of the Sky @UCLA

The entire “north campus” of my alma mater, U.C.L.A., is a wonderful sculpture garden, including works by Rodin and Matisse.

On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I visited with my putative father (as he likes to call himself), close friend, and dissertation advisor, Milanese poet Luigi Ballerini.

That’s Luigi, above, with the newest installation in the Murphy Sculpture Garden, “L’occhio del cielo,” by Eliseo Mattiacci, known for his seemingly impossible and often precarious pieces.

It was great to catch up with Luigi and stroll around the campus. The work by Mattiacci stands behind Royce Hall, just below the building’s chapel (which is used as a classroom by the Italian Department). Royce, the symbol of U.C.L.A., is inspired by Milan’s Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, a place dear to Petrarch who lived, studied, and composed there.

Labor amoris and a dedication

Above: This labor amoris is dedicated to the one I love.

The first exam I took at the University of Padua in 1988 was History of the Italian Language, with Professor Gianfranco Folena (1920-1992), one of the great linguists and philologists of the twentieth century. (The exam was on Parini’s Il giorno and 18th-century Italian neologisms.) He was the first to encourage me to continue my studies in philology and he wrote me the reference letter that ultimately won me my fellowship and teaching position in the graduate studies program at the Department of Italian, U.C.L.A.

Professor Folena was a delightful, gentle, and generous man, he loved to laugh, and he loved to remember how he sold turpentine for a living when he returned to civilian life from the concentration camp where he had been imprisoned (as a political undesirable) during the war.

I could never aspire to the greatness Professor Folena achieved while on this earth (nor have I suffered the way that he and his generation did). But I do think of him often and how his turpentine is my wine. I am so very fortunate to make a living doing something that I enjoy, a career that brings me into contact with interesting people and takes me to interesting places.

I hawk wine for a living because translating and writing a blog doesn’t pay the bills. But I have never abandoned my labor of love and I am very proud to share the news that my translation of Professor Gian Piero Brunetta’s The History of Italian Cinema has been published by Princeton University Press. Professor Brunetta still teaches at the University of Padua (where I also studied Italian cinema) and we both remembered Professor Folena fondly in our email correspondence on queries I had for him regarding the translation. The book arrived yesterday in the mail and is my third hard-cover university press translation.

I’d like to dedicate it to the woman I love, Tracie B.

you are more brilliant than Lina Wertmüller
more sexy than Stefania Sandrelli
and more beautiful than Monica Vitti in any frame by Michelangelo Antonioni

This labor amoris is for you…