The work is both tragic and dramatic. It is a tour de force, felt and powerful in its heavy mass and girth as it is proportionately and relatively wider (1.5m) in comparison to its height (2.30m). It is powerful in its dynamics. The movement though in repose is constant as the figures embrace like a knot. The sailor rises from the waves, born from the water but a presentiment that he can be re-sucked or swallowed by the waves is probable and not impossible. The catharsis in the sentiment and feeling released by the expressive work is full of pathos and instils immediate compassion.
The monument sums up the tragedy of uncertainty in the sailor's departure, the suffering and pain that physical separation will instil. He is going forth but he might not return to his loved ones. The pathos in the trauma of a broken relationship emphasized by the wife's embrace and the expression in the three faces is overwhelming. This artistic work is highly effective. This vital moment is summed up in Homer’s epic: ‘The Odyssey’. It is a moment in man’s life when he has to depart and part from his loved ones and say farewell. If he ever returns then he is recognized though changed and welcomed. Both instances: the uncertainty in departure and recognition and welcome at his return are original and basic Greek social notions with deep symbolic meaning.
The wife’s embrace is highly expressive as she embraces her man while her son huddles close protected by his father. The work is one unitary mass with no spaces between the figures. This approach enhances the unity expressed and gives the stone greater strength and volume. The oscillatory movement of the wave underlines the oscillatory motion of the figures as they embrace, and interlocks the vertical curvaceous dynamic to that horizontal. If the concept to the artist is only subconscious the effect is rendered more natural.
The idea was inspired by the harsh reality of the barklor, the sailor who used to ferry passengers across the creek from Senglea to Vittoriosa in the Valletta Harbour area. After some rethinking the barklor became a common sailor and to the single figure were added his wife and son. Cari Privitera, the sculptress created the first maquette in an abstract form: a hemisphere symbolizing a boat or egg and three spheres representing the heads of the protagonists. Perhaps the organizing committee preferred a figurative idiom that needed no explanation and therefore instant impact on the cognition of the viewer. The artist then produced five prototypes or ‘abbozzi’. The last produced was accepted.
I met Cari Privitera on Friday 18th July at Catania airport. We proceeded immediately to the work yard to view the monument. She clearly explained to me how she chose the enormous rock weighing 20 tonnes that was cut from a quarry at Paternò, near Catania in Sicily of basalto lavico from a lava flow (colata) of around 1700. Then the boulder was cut in three places with an heliciodal diamond bit and reduced it to 13 tonnes. Then the artist started giving it shape and finally reduced it to 9.5 tonnes. The monument will finally rest on a plinth of hard light coloured stone from North Africa that contrasts with the dark basalt.
The three-month stint hewing the lava block was hard and dangerous and the artist was exposed to inclement weather while working. The rough texture in such a hard material symbolizes the pain of separation and the toil involved in working the stone. The eyes of the artist reveal a hint of satisfaction and accomplishment now that the work on the monument is almost complete.
Cari Privitera was born in Catania, in 1971. In her infancy her family moved house to Germany and she lived there for seven years. After her return to Sicily she attended art schools and finally qualified as a ‘Maestro d’arte in architettura ed arredamento’ and became ‘Decoratrice pittorica’ in the Accademia di Belle Arte of Catania. For several years she worked at a restoration laboratory for art objects that gave her the chance of becoming an art connoisseur of antiques and at the same time falling madly in love with the subject. She painted with gusto for a long period and the necessity to create the third dimension opened wide the possibility of experimenting with sculpture. She applied her knowledge by teaching sculpture through projects and courses she organized in different schools opening laboratories or workshops for differently abled and less gifted students. She presently lives in Via Grande near Acireale in open countryside in the shadow of ice capped Etna.