Bruce Pizzochillo

2680 Union Street
Oakland, California 94607

Artist's Statement

Over the years my work has been shaped by so many outside forces: music, painting, dance, poetry, film and architecture, to name a few. My work is relevant only in as much as it relates to life and culture.  Sometimes it makes sense but in the search for truth the process is always bearing new fruit. Every time I advance artistically I feel progress but I also become aware of a larger universe of possibilities. I started experimenting with glass and metal in the 1970's. The constant need to be challenged and to reinvent myself has been evolutionary catalysts, changing the direction of my work. While it is important for me to master the technical skills to do this, at the same time I work to remain open and receptive at the moment it happens. I've been combining the ideas of control/accident and restriction/freedom, — all contrasting properties — searching for ways to innovate. The spontaneity, discipline and improvisation required to work like this make it real for me. I learned this from my relationship to music.

I was president and helped run the non-profit Jazz In Flight in Oakland, CA for 25 years. We produced concerts and festivals of creative music by local, national and international artists who composed original works with no boundaries. One thing I took from this is a passion for experimenting with critical interpretations of the past, aiming to discover the real origins of traditional concepts in order to distill their original spirit. The music, dance and poetry we presented enabled me to experience the joy of taking risks, the thrill of the unexpected, and to embrace the restlessness of my creative spirit. These qualities are now celebrated in my work.

 I work in glass, metal, wood, paint and found objects and incorporate new techniques and materials in my art — even if there are rough edges at the beginning. It opens to me a fuller expression of simple ideas. I've been investigating the unique properties of glass for 40 years.  Its physical qualities capture the ephemeral side of all that is born, develops and dies: a state of constant movement. Glass can be formed, transformed, shattered and crumbled into a thousand pieces. What material could be a better metaphor for life and its transitory nature? I think that everything not explained in life is explained in art.

I've worked hard to keep my artwork from being one dimensional.  For me creation is not really the point of art, it is more a record of what has happened, enabling artist and viewer to experience things more intensely and inspiring the viewer and the artist to new levels of creativity.  As an artist what I do is extend the sense and awareness of things unseen.

A pivotal event that helped shape and expand my career was in October 1991 when, with 2,000 other artists and workers from across the country, I joined Christo's Umbrella Project in California. We installed the umbrellas on their bases, undid their wrappings and opened them exactly at sunrise simultaneously with those in Japan. My team of 10 worked from sun up till sun down for 9 days installing 30 umbrellas on the side of the Grapevine.  We camped together and met as a community for dinner and talks each evening. Christo was very generous, making himself accessible to all the younger artists and workers. This kind of encouragement led me to a kind of blessed state to going beyond my prior sense of self.
The next event in recent years that had a major impact on my artistic approach was being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness in 2008. That interrupted everything. There were unexpected physical and mental setbacks.  It was often hard to decide which was worse, the illness or the medications. It was a spiritual reawakening; looking for light from within as well as from my surroundings.

Ironically, as I struggled to rise up from this new low, many new paths opened. Since I could no longer work the way I had been for over 30 years, I tapped deeper into my artistic vision.  While coping with my mental instability and trying to buffer my physical pain my output was slow but reached an almost frantic pace, trying not to be short-changed by the presumption of imminent death but to be consumed by life.

As a new body of work developed, some past ideas resurfaced and intertwined with a wealth of new inspiration.  One of these concepts was frozen motion. In the past, I'd made metal frameworks to manipulate the molten glass and to freeze it in its new form.  The frameworks are now integral parts of the final sculpture. This concept quickly grew into a new series and the realization that the art is the story. Previously I was always trying to tell a story using my life experiences in the work. As this fresh view evolved, I gained confidence and started to paint on canvas.

I was never more humbled than when I picked up a brush and faced a blank canvas. Before this my painting was with glass on glass, which is unforgiving and nothing like what I was doing on canvas. Working for weeks on end with very little knowledge of technique I realized that unlike glass there are no mistakes on a canvas,  just opportunities that lead to inspiration and found passion. Within each picture, committing color, shape and line, making scratches and texture on the canvas surface as if for the first time, I attacked each new canvas with great urgency.  With an almost child-like spirit leading me on, I began to experience freedom from within.

Like a wild animal, this new inspiration leaps at me from all over. It's an exchange, a mutation of sorts, arriving at "inquietante familiarite", a strange nearness or familiarity or perhaps a familiar strangeness. Art often has this quality for me, taking the known into the unknown, making the familiar unfamiliar.  In bringing the unfamiliar near, it's as if I am seeing things for the first time. As a result, my new body of work includes sculpture, painting and mixed-media wall pieces.

What I like most about these new pieces is that they remain fragile and difficult to explain. It's about repetition and yet it's never the same.  The process is an upward spiral, not a closed circle. There is the elusive pursuit of the moment and the infinite possibilities within the moment. Capturing this intensity provides a different way of seeing. In this moment you begin to feel alive and content for a little bit. At this point in time many things have come together as a result of listening to the silence that exists before the sound is made. This silence is also present before every action that we initiate in life.

Work by This Artist