Rescued Art

Italian PlasterersMr. Franco Arquati was born in Parma, Italy. He worked in a woodshop from the age of ten. Early on he found he had a talent for hand crafting ornate moldings. One miter cut led to another until he had created a world-renown picture frame company, famous for high quality wood frames like the ones surrounding this mesmerizing photo of Italian plasterers.

This particular frame was, I am quite sure now, imported to the Arquati facility in Carrollton, Texas and distributed by the Colorado Molding Company of Denver. I am sure of this because the Denver company serves all of Kansas for Arquati and this was framed at a now-gone-under frame shop called Art Works, located in Wichita.

I know all this about the framers of this photo because I disassembled the work. I was driven to find out more about it than is revealed from viewing it from the outside. It needed new kraft backing paper in any case and having only the aesthetic pleasure of looking at it didn’t seem enough. I needed to know more. Who took this photo and when, and who are these plasterers? In the end, I have had to be satisfied with the pleasure that comes with looking at art, with no knowledge, no history, no photographer’s name.

And what do we see from the outside? Bare presentation of a plasterer with his tools: bucket, trowel, ladder. He looks into the studio photographer’s lens with a modest self-satisfaction that is utterly unashamed. There is no sense here of lowliness in his everyday profession.

Standing behind the master is an apprentice, shadow of the master, a younger self of the master, the next generation of masters. This photo depicts an entire history of hand craft, in black and white with no possibility of painting any false bravado over the day-to-day reality of hard dignified work.