This month our featured artist is frequent KBFA collaborator, Los Angeles-based artist Nick Petronzio. Petronzio is a second generation sculptor acclaimed for his versatility in style and technique coupled with a vast knowledge of materials and finishes. He has collaborated with well-known artists, designers, themed entertainment companies, brands, galleries and museums to produce significant sculptural works.
Recently, we approached Nick Petronzio to see if he’d share with us a little bit about his artistic process, and we’re excited to share his answers to that and more in a new Q & A with the artist.
Q: You’re most well-known as a sculptor, but you’re actually a multidisciplinary artist. Tell us about some of the other kinds of art you make, and how do you find time to devote to each practice?
Nick Petronzio: I’m primarily a sculptor and painter but I studied illustration and design as well. I’ve devoted my artistic career not just to creating sculpture but to design and fabrication too. Once one delves into the fabrication and production process of art, there’s an abundant range other artistic disciplines and skills that need to be learned. For myself, these have included: Drawing, mold making, casting, ceramics, metal working, wood working, welding, painting and patinas. Ever since the day I decided to pursue art as a career, I made a very conscious decision to learn as much as I could about the whole process of making art so that I could apply that knowledge and experience both to my own artwork and in facilitating others to produce their work from start to finish.
Additionally, along my journey, I contemplated pursuing other passions such as architecture and culinary school but I decided to stick with sculpture but I’d say that I’ve always been drawn to creating from concept to completion.
Q: One fun fact about you is that you’re a second generation sculptor, your father being artist Robert Petronzio. Were you always drawn to the kind of work your father did or was it more of a journey discovering that you wanted to be a working artist?
Nick Petronzio: I was born into an artistic family and was definitely drawn to it as it was my natural surroundings. My father is a sculptor, painter and art teacher and my mother Dora, is a potter and massage therapist. My parents built the log cabin cabin I was born in, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and they also built a bronze foundry and a pottery studio adjacent to it where they made and sold their art. They later moved to Montreal, Quebec where they opened an art school called the Institute des Beaux Art where they taught and produced art together for two decades. That said, my parents always encouraged my interest in art but they never expected for me to follow in their footsteps.
Q: Aside from your father, who do you consider your biggest artistic influences?
Nick Petronzio: With exception to an endless list of professional artists that I respect and admire, I’d say that my mother and a handful of fellow artists and great teachers that I’ve been fortunate enough to have as mentors have been both my biggest influencers and encouragers along the way.
Q: For some artists their work is very solitary, but you often collaborate with other artists on projects. What’s that experience like? What’s the best part of it and the toughest? Who have been some of your favorite collaborators to make art with over the years?
Nick Petronzio: Well there are many facets to what I do. One is that I’m an artist and I create and produce my own work in my studio. The other is that I’m a teacher and an art fabricator that collaborates with other artists and designers to bring their artistic visions to life by offering concept to completion art fabrication services.
As an artist, the inspiration, conception, design and creation process art of my personal art is quite personal and solitary in nature. However, when it comes to producing it, it often involves a collaborative effort with my team of talented craftsmen and technicians who work with me in my studio.
As a fabricator offering art production services, it’s a 100% collaborative process from start to finish in that I’m offering my full skillset as a service. This involves sharing my knowledge, experience and sometimes my opinion in consulting with designers, architects, production teams, art directors, art consultants and artists alike on how best to approach, achieve or facilitate their artistic visions. The collaboration process is usually great since I’m helping to advance and idea or bring a concept to life. In general, it’s a big sigh of relief from my clients because I’m answering the unknown and empowering them or at times, I’m willing to take on a project that they or other fabricators aren’t. That said, sometimes it can require a leap of faith for them or tremendous trust in me and my capabilities. This is mostly true for artists that are emotionally tied to their work as they have to trust in me and sometimes they also need to be willing to accept that if there are many unknowns, things might turnout differently than they might have envisioned. This is especially true when working with a client for the first time and or when trying to do something experimental and new. I call this part managing expectations and the only way to approach it is by being as honest, truthful and informative as I can be and there’s nothing easy about it.
Every collaboration I have is unique. The ones that are my favorite are genuine and true, and they usually involve a journey together that builds both a relationship and a piece of art in synchronicity and this usually ends in us achieving their goals or exceeding their expectations. In these cases it’s not uncommon for these shared experiences to develop into lasting friendships that usually lead to many more fruitful collaborations.
Q: Being based in Los Angeles you also do a number of projects for the entertainment industry. Can you tell us a little about what that’s like and how that differs from other commissions you do?
Nick Petronzio: At times my services are called upon from production teams in the entertainment industry. In general, for these types of collaborations I’m approached by a design team with a very specific project and desired outcome. It’s most often a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer as to whether I can produce what they’re needing to have made, and these projects tend to be well thought out with regard to design, engineering, material specifications, schedule and the final product. Occasionally there’s room for artistic interpretation and creativity but in general it’s a straight forward design-build which requires the end result to be extremely accurate to design specifications.
Q: What is the most unusual commission you’ve ever gotten?
Nick Petronzio: Let’s just say it was one for the “Entertainment Industry” and leave it at that!
Q: KBFA recently worked with you on a project for a corporate client, Air Lease, where you created a fleet of paper airplane sculptures and one skeleton of a plane. If you got a voucher today for a free flight to anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?
Nick Petronzio: Patagonia without a doubt! There’s such an abundance of nature to explore there and I love the great outdoors. Being in nature is refreshing for me because it distances me from the noise of everyday life and routine. It breaks things down to a standstill which reminds me of my interconnectedness to the earth and that I’m just a speck of sand. For me, that’s beautiful, scary and humbling all at the same time which is priceless. It also brings about awareness of how ephemeral we are as humans in the larger scope of things and that serves as a reminder for me not to take everyday things too seriously and to enjoy the small things in life and that feeling and clarity is really healthy.
Q: What’s next for you this year? Do you have any exciting projects or collaborations coming up?
Nick Petronzio: There are always interesting projects in the works and it’s just a question of which one comes through.
I recently completed two public art sculptures in collaboration with KBFA which I designed and fabricated for the new Godfrey Hotel in Hollywood, CA (coming Spring 2020).
I’m currently restoring a 10’ tall ‘Big Ganesh’ sculpture by acclaimed artist Niki de Saint Phalle for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Niki Charitable Art Foundation which is both a huge honor and responsibility. When I’m working on an art restoration, it’s of utmost importance to honor the artists original work, style and design intent while respecting the trustees desires in bringing the artwork back to life for the public to see, experience and enjoy for many years to come. There’s a lot that goes into an art restoration aside from what is seen or not seen but let’s save that for our next interview!
The biggest project for me right now is that I’m starting a new sculpture studio here in the greater Los Angeles area which is called Artscape Sculpture Studio. It’s slated to launch this spring 2020 and is a culmination of everything I’ve built over the past 20 years under one roof. Artscape is a multi-disciplinary art and fabrication studio where my team and I will be offering all of the design and fabrication services that we’ve discussed in this interview, but we will also be adding a Artscape branded product line which will be both designed and produced in house. We’re also going to include seasonal educational workshops to share our experience and knowledge with aspiring and professional artists.