Passion’s Furnace
When I was a kid in Caltagirone, Sicily, everybody worked hard all the time - grueling manual labor in the fields and factories.   By the time I was eight years old, I was already working with my father in a ceramic-sculpture foundry.  I didn't do much more than sweep the floors, but I was around all sorts of craftspeople and began to see that there were some forms of hard work that were more fulfilling than others.  So I began to think about becoming a painter. I took my first steps in that direction at 13.  By the time I was 18, I'd opened a studio and was painting and sculpting on my own.  In those days, the arts community was an exciting place where we shared ideas, fed on each others' energy and competed with each other for good commissions.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I thought the established artists I hung out with were cool and powerful in their own ways - and that I wanted to be just like them. Given the specific nature of my art, it's not surprising that the great Italian masters heavily influenced my work right from the start, including Michelangelo, Raphael and especially Leonardo Da Vinci.  They are my heroes, and I see the work I do as a modest continuation of the traditions they established. These artists taught me that great art is about passion and the desire to