Forecast Calls for Art and Whimsy
By Anne FarrowSpecial to The Hartford Courant VERNON, Conn. – Roger DiTarando built his first weather vane more than a decade ago, and it’s still turning in the wind above his metalworking studio workshop. Three intoxicated pigs dance atop an immense puffy cloud, and the four vanes bear an N, a heart, a star and a crescent moon.”I call it ‘Three Sheets to the Wind,’ ” the sculptor says, adding that the weather vane – made of cast bronze, copper, brass and steel – involved an extravagant 60 pieces. Hardly marketable, he says, but he loves to sit on the porch of his Vernon home and look at it.With a change of weather in the air, people find themselves looking more to the sky – and perhaps they’ll notice the abundance of weather vanes that spin atop New England houses and barns. As folk-art collectibles, weather vanes have reached sky-high prices.This useful icon of Americana could have been simply utilitarian – telling us which way the wind blows – but it quickly became so much more, telegraphing a bit of personality at every turn .On a hot day a few weeks ago, DiTarando was working on a series of goat sculptures in copper and bronze for a client who lives on Puget Sound in Washington state.”I love my animals,” says DiTarando, who studied at the Museum of Fine Arts school in Boston and at Hartford Art School, then worked as a jet-engine metalsmith apprentice at Pratt & Whitney for three years before turning permanently to his career as an artist three decades ago.”I can pull energy and expression out of the animal characters,” says DiTarando, who also makes pieces for interiors and gardens. His prices start at $1,600.”When I come out here in the morning, I might not be in a good mood, but they pull me right up.”He works alone, and although he does occasional art shows, by choice he is not represented by a gallery. “I prefer to work directly with people,” he says, “and find out what they’d like, or what they’re thinking about.”He does business locally and through his Web site: http://www.ditarando.com. His “Celestial Series” includes a weather vane designed as a thick stream of stars falling across a crescent moon; another shows a fluffy cloud with jags of lightning punching through. “The whole trick to a weather vane is balance,” DiTarando says. “You should be able to just blow on it (and see it turn).”The vivid life the sculptor captures in his work jumps from the weather vane he created for a Cape Cod client: An immense osprey, with a 78-inch wingspan, lifts a fish in its talons. Everything about the sculpture conveys the way ospreys dive from great heights to snatch prey from the water’s surface.Another weather vane, standing in DiTarando’s workshop’s outer yard, portrays two elaborately sculpted kangaroos – the male kangaroo dances happily while the female stares mournfully down at her pouch, from which the heads of three baby ‘roos peek out. “It’s called ‘What Were We Thinking?'” DiTarando says. “You know, the night of bliss, then…,” his voice trails off, trusting his visitor will get the joke.
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