The Italian Experience

Michael Binkley’s epiphany to turn his artistic direction to stone sculpture occurred in Italy in 1980.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture vancouver canada pietrasanta italy studio sem

Michael Binkley has had a love affair with Italy, since became inspired to carve stone in 1980, while attending a Renaissance Art History course with Capilano University, on location in Florence Italy.

During his visit to the Accademia della Belle Arte, Binkley saw the works of Michelangelo for the first time in person. While “David” is by far Michelangelo’s finest piece in Binkley’s opinion, what struck a chord deep inside the Canadian artist were the unfinished “Slave” sculptures that Michelangelo was carving for Pope Julius II’s tomb. These four sculptures were never finished, as Michelangelo was called away to paint a ceiling, but Binkley discovered that he could see inside the marble and could envision the figures looking just as the mighty “David” does now.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture vancouver canada pietrasanta italy studio sem

After that experience, Binkley sought a way to learn the techniques of stone sculpture back in Vancouver, BC, Canada. He was very fortunate to succeed in doing just that, and has since maintained a successful studio and gallery in North Vancouver where he has produced most of the body of his career work.

For many years, Binkley dreamed of returning to Italy, only this time to carve in a marble studio in the shadow of the mountains of the white marble quarries under the Tuscan sun. In 2006, Binkley finally realized that dream. He and his wife, Michelle traveled to Pietrasanta, and Binkley rented a space at the famous Studio SEM for the month of April.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture vancouver canada pietrasanta italy studio sem

michael binkley sculptor sculpture vancouver canada pietrasanta italy studio sem

Before leaving for Italy, Binkley secured four major commissions to be executed in the stunning white marble of Carrara, Italy. The patrons were excited that he would be able to hand select the marble for each sculpture, and that their sculpture would have its genesis on Italian soil, just as Michelangelo had done 500 years ago.

As Binkley could not bring his entire studio of tools with him, he chose to bring enough to get each sculpture partially worked. Once he was satisfied that a good progress was achieved, Binkley moved on to the next piece.

The Binkleys rented an apartment in an ancient villa, and quickly adapted to the laid back lifestyle of small town Italy. Each weekday, Binkley would work 8 hours in the studio. This left Michelle time to explore the surrounding towns and countryside during the day. Evenings were spent in the piazzas, dining with the locals in the quaint restaurants and exploring the many galleries of Pietrasanta. Weekends found them traveling further afield to Florence, Rome, Lucca, Pisa, Carrara and the Cinque Terre.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture vancouver canada pietrasanta italy studio sem

michael binkley sculptor sculpture vancouver canada pietrasanta italy studio sem

After four weeks of dusty work, the sculptures were packed into a container, along with skids of other marble blocks Binkley purchased for inventory back in Vancouver. The container made the long sea journey back to the west coast of Canada. Binkley then completed each commission in his North Vancouver studio.

The Binkleys returned for the month of September in 2008. This time, the artist began a series of ten new works in Carrara marble. Again, these were partially worked and shipped by container (with more marble blocks!) back to Vancouver where Binkley finished them. Their experience was again a memorable one, this time with friends from Canada visiting each week!

The two can’t wait to get back to Pietrasanta to work again….

Michael Binkley