Kaz And Me In Tuscany

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Pietrasanta: picturesque Italian art colony on the coast of Northern Tuscany close to the Carrera marble mines, where Michaelangelo studied and created David (where his original sketch of the Pieta is rumoured to be etched on the wall of the local church Sant’Agostino ), where factories chisel and grind out all types of religious statues for churches around the world, where foundries pour liquid bronze into casts by such famous resident artists as Fernando Botero...and Kaz.

I happened by the typical and picturesque town square one morning when the local street market was in full swing.  While browsing among the vegetable, bakery, craft and antique stands, I came across a most beautiful antique camera. While giving it a good look-over and considering the purchase, a voice, in English, came over my shoulder, “if you’re not going to buy it, may I have a look?”

The voice came from an elegant elderly gent wearing a New York Yankee baseball cap. Since he looked friendly, spoke English and was obviously interested in photography, I asked the obvious question, “are you a Yankee fan?”

He nodded in the affirmative, so I proceeded to ask him if he was from New York City. He replied “yes and no” and explained that he lived six months of the year in Pietrasanta where he sculpted and had his works cast at the local bronze foundry.  

He introduced himself as Nathaniel Kaz but said I should simply call him Kaz.  He went on to tell me that he’d been living part-time in Pietrasanta for man years and, when back in New York, taught at the world famous Art Students League.  He said his work was in private, public, and in permanent collections of many of the major museums world-wide. 

(Note: when one travels, it’s always possible to run into “wannabees.” But if Kaz was who he said he was, and if what he said was, in fact true, this guy must be some kind of famous artist!)

He saw the impact (and possible disbelief) of his mini-bio on my face, so he asked me if I’d like to visit his apartment, just around the corner from the town square, to see some of his work.  As he looked like an ok fellow and my ‘creep detector did not sound the alarm, I said I’d like to accompany him to his pied a terre.

So me, my wife Margaret and Jon, a university professor and authority on Italy who was traveling with us, all headed around the corner with Kaz.

Guess what?  Everything he said was true!  Kaz showed us maquettes of his work, pictures of his work in museum catalogues, introduced us to his lovely artist wife Delfina, and cracked open a bottle of wine.  

How’s that for a guy wearing a New York Yankee baseball cap?

Our visit lasted long into the afternoon with rich conversation about his art (http://www.jo-an.com/nathaniel_kaz.him) and art history. He told us something not many know about Michaelangelo’s David. The chip in one of David’s legs was caused by a jealous fellow student who threw a chunk of marble at the famous sculpture as it was being dragged through the street on its way to Florence. 

We also talked of Italy,  Pietrasanta, Michaelangelo (it was Kaz who told us of the Pieta sketch etched on the church wall), his art, Delfina’s art (http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/d/delfinanahrgang/),  photography and his music.

His music? I thought he was a sculptor until he pulled out his violin and started to play a most articulate classical piece. 

After his concert, I remarked, “Hey, my dad also played the violin. He was concertmaster and first violin with the great Italian maestro, Arturo Toscaninni.”

“What?” exclaimed Kaz.  “What was your father’s name?”

I replied, “Philip, Philip Frank.”

Kaz shot back, “where did he study violin?”

“Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, why?”

Kaz popped, “I knew your father.  He was my classmate!”

Six degrees of separation can even happen in the little art colony town of Pietrasanta.

Church of Sant’Agostino where Michaelangelo’s sketch of his ”Pieta” appears etched on a wall, however, as Kaz noted, the sketch is viewed from behind the Mother and Child.


   ...like I said, six degrees of separation, even in Tuscany.

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