Sebastian Martorana (Manassas, VA, 1981) straddles the line between art and craft, utility and beauty. As one of the few marble sculptors in the U.S. who continues to use traditional sculpting techniques, he is able to achieve a level of detail and texture that is virtually unparalleled and makes one wonder, as they observe his works, whether they are looking at stone or cloth.
Sebastian maintains his studio in Baltimore, MD at the Hilgartner Natural Stone Company. Many of his works involve incorporating salvaged marble architectural elements from the city and their re-incorporation into individual and site-specific sculptures. His works have been shown in numerous museums – he was included in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery’s “40 Under 40: Craft Futures” exhibition (where his Impressions is included in the permanent collection) and his Yours, Mine and Ours was included in the Walters Art Museum’s exhibition “Rinehart’s Studio: Rough Stone to Living Marble.” In 2015, Sebastian was one of five artisans selected by Anthony Bourdain to be part of The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection tour.
Glove: Engineer, 2015
5 x 7.5 x 11 in
Study for Glove: Engineer, 2014
Grease Pen on Cardboard
8.5 x 13 in
Artist’s Statement: Glove: Engineer was the second glove in the series focusing on some of the hand-wear I’ve accumulated. This railroad “engineer” style glove reminds me of the type of gloves my grandfather wore. His family immigrated to the States and worked on the railroads in Upstate NY. The leather around the fingertips and palm is thick and coarse, while the upper cuff and back of the hand is thinner cotton, to allow for cooling in a hot environment. Initially I thought that I would focus on the actual colored striped patter on the cotton, however I decided that (as ever) texture trumps color–and so I decided to try to illustrate the fine herring bone texture of the material. It was pretty painstaking, but I’m glad I went for it. It was certainly easier work than shoveling coal.
I started this series for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the recurring discussion regarding the relationship between “art” and “craft.” While these pieces are portraits of a kind—documentation of the essence of an individual—they are also meant to address this question of authorship of a piece of art. We live in a day where anyone can just think of a thing and have someone or some-thing fabricate it for them. I still feel that there is value in making that thing with one’s own hands.
I believe that the concept and the fabrication of a piece of art are both equally important to the piece’s success and, therefore, cannot be separated. It is my opinion that the degree to which the “Hand of the Artist” is or is not present in the finished piece of work is an integral part of its narrative. These sculptures inspired by my work gloves speak to that desire to be truly, physically, present in the execution of one’s own product.