Aldo Casanova: A Retrospective Showcases Scripps Professor’s Art
It is not often one gets to tour a gallery with the exhibiting artist. On November 13, more than 100 students and members
of the Fine Arts Foundation crowded the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, straining their necks to get a better view of Aldo
Casanova and his sculpture.
He spoke candidly about each piece, sharing anecdotes about his inspiration for “Sunshaft,” a bone in his oxtail soup, and
his professor’s warning on his rosewood “Madonna and Child”: “Stop now, Aldo. You’re not going t ooverwork it. are you?”
“Aldo Casanova: A Retrospective” took place November 2 through December 15 to honor the achievements of the self-taught
sculptor and emeritus Scripps professor. Casanova joined the Scripps faculty in 1966, eight years after winning the prestigious Rome Prize Fellowship in Sculpture, and retired in 1999.
The retrospective included 44 works, only a portion of Casanova’s extensive portfolio. The Ruth Chandler Williamson
Gallery borrowed sculptures from several Southern California collectors, but there are many other Casanova sculptures dotting
Casanova strove to be the Johnny Appleseed of sculpture, “leaving bronzes instead of trees,” he said. He succeeded: there are Casanova sculptures in numerous private and public collections, museums such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the National Academy of Design, New York, and everywhere in between.
According to Gallery Director Mary MacNaughton ’70, Casanova was “eagerly involved in all stages of the planning process.” During the installation, Casanova worked with Collection Manager Kirk Delman to light the space and personally polished his bronzes. Delman’s goal was to “activate the space without compromising the pieces.” To achieve this, olive green and navy blue colored blocks were installed to complement the bronze sculptures without distracting the viewer.
Suzanne Ely Muchnic ’62, art writer for the Lost Angeles Times, wrote an introduction to the exhibition catalog, describing Casanova as an artist “steeped in tradition but attuned to the present.”
This traditional background stems from painting, in which he received a bachelor’s and master’s degree at San Francisco State University before changing to sculpture. Casanova marries painting and sculpture in his landscape series, a genre not often attempted by sculptors. He “puts together strong forms with richly worked surfaces,” observed MacNaughton. Three of these large topographical map-like plaques were displayed in the retrospective.
His classical training was also reflected in his teaching curriculum. Professor Arthur Stevens, another emeritus member
of the Scripps faculty noted, “In three decades of teaching, he never changed his basic sculpture course.” His beginning
students molded a self-portrait out of clay for their first assignment, later sculpting natural objects found on campus.
Several of Casanova’s former students, such as Amy Ellingson ’86, Judith Davies ’69, and Elizabeth Turk ’83, are now prominent sculptors. Even those who did not pursue art as a career were affected by him, and many of his students were
among the visitors to the retrospective.
The opening reception on November 2 began with an Italian dinner, celebrating Casanova’s proud Italian heritage. Later,
approximately 400 people flooded the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery. “It was hard to see the artworks,” noted a smiling Delman.
Casanova’s work spans many genres: animal, human, and abstract forms. His renown comes from his exquisite bronzes. Casanova has been awarded many honors, particularly in the past decade. In 1992, he was elected to the National Academy
of Design, and designated a fellow of the National Sculpture Society in 1994.
Several excellent examples of Casanova’s work are on permanent display at The Claremont Colleges, including “Juncture” on the Scripps campus and the emblem series in Keck Science Center.
Anne Worthington (CMC ’03)