ith distance comes perspective–and, for sculptor Caprice Pierucci, appreciation. Although she grew up in Pittsburgh with a mother who was a fiber artist, she didn’t fully embrace the creative world until she went out on her own. “We had an artistic household filled with art supplies and my mother’s loom in the dining room,” she recalls. “I had to move away from it before I could come back to it.”
Pierucci began taking art and sculpture classes in college, eventually transferring from Hobart and William Smith Colleges to Carnegie Mellon University, where her mother had taught. There, she studied fiber art and explored using wood as armatures for soft materials, such as paper. “I’m really attracted to linear forms,” she explains, alluding to the look of the threads in her mother’s loom. She moved to Austin, Texas, in 1983 to apprentice with her mother, who was there on sabbatical from teaching.
While Pierucci’s earliest sculptures appeared spiky and severe, they have evolved over time and now take the form of sinuous wooden shapes with a progressive rhythm, thanks to her trusty band saw and Makita grinders and sanders.
Working in a bright studio with high ceilings and ample windows located behind her Austin home, she uses wood like pine, Douglas fir, or even plywood if she can find it sourced from specific regions. While pine is easily sanded, Douglas fir has deep brown tones, and plywood reveals its beautiful laminated layering once it has been cut and smoothed. The artist learned the hard way to stock up on the latter, lest she run out in the middle of a big project. “It’s my own little plywood nightmare,” she laughs.
After cutting out the basic shape of each smaller piece of wood, Pierucci forms it further with her grinder before refining the edges with a belt sander, a self-invented method that is at once additive, subtractive and intensively physical. “I have a lot of energy,” she notes, “so I enjoy it.” A full-time assistant helps with the finish work, including any final sanding and either rubbing each piece with tungsten oil for a natural look or washing it with diluted latex paint for color. Pierucci then assembles all of the smaller wooden pieces, usually on a table, into larger sculptures, using a process she describes as “calming and meditative.” Oftentimes, the larger freestanding designs call for a bit more dexterity and creativity, requiring her to climb inside for sanding before assembling. “That’s when I feel like a real sculptor,” she says.
The public made that determination long ago. “I’m lucky I like what I do,” Pierucci says, “because I’ve been busy since 2002.” Always simultaneously working on several commissions, she exhibits frequently and has completed sculptures that appear in many permanent collections. She is also represented by galleries in Austin, Houston and several other U.S. cities.
Although Pierucci resisted her artistic roots in the beginning, she is immensely grateful to her parents for inspiring her creativity, which not only enriches her life but also impacts others. “It can be a calming thing to people, and that brings me a lot of joy,” she says, recalling a client who meditates in front of a sculpture by Pierucci every morning. “That’s the power of art.”
PHOTOS: WYNN MYERS
Meet More Makers