Similar to the talented Italian artists of the Renaissance, Sandro Bonaiuto developed interest in art as a young child. Born in Cleveland to Italian parents, Sandro and his brother Norman would visit the Cleveland Art Museum, where he “fell deeply in love with the great masterpieces in the collection.”
After the death of their parents, Sandro and Norman went to Italy and studied painting. However, Sandro had another love – opera – and his studies earned him prizes for his high-C vocals. He chose to pursue opera as a career, but the road leading to his future turned toward another form of art. He recalls, “Being American was not in our favor and the opera houses wouldn’t even listen to me … this was the ’60s. I was studying Italian and found a job at the Embassy of Pakistan as a translator. Having time on my hands, I decided to study Rome with a great restorer, Marcello Lanci, and he told me to study sculpture as it would help in repairing statues.”
“Friends saw my studies and encouraged me to go to Faïence [southeast of Bologna, in Emilio-Romagna] and study ceramic sculpture, which I did,” Sandro said. His first completed piece was a bust of Apollo in ceramic. The fine detail of Sandro’s work was similar to that of the neoclassic sculptor Antonio Canova. “I received attention from the city fathers for my work, culminating in the commission to do the Holy Family for the city, which was given to Pope John Paul II and is now housed in the Vatican collections.”
Sandro attended the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna and studied for four years with Italian sculptor Graziano Pompili, learning to work with marble. He notes, “I love marble the best of all materials, but feel comfortable in bronze, second best is terracotta.”
His work caught the eye of art collectors, bringing numerous commissions for marble, terracotta, and bronze pieces. Among his favorites are the marble “Eolo re dei Venti” (“Aeolus, King of Winds”); the terracotta pieces “The Madonna” for a church in Hudson, Ohio; and “Dr. Anlyan of Duke University” (in North Carolina), which Sandro states was his “most challenging piece, to date. He’s a very fine man, and to capture his personality was a challenge.”
Sandro described his technique when starting a piece. “I always begin by seeing the space where the piece will be located. The space influences me a great deal. I usually study the commission for several days, including background work. I then leave it alone for a few days and start sketching until something strange happens with a line or a feel and I follow it. I always can see the piece finished before I start, to the point that I can walk around it in my mind and scratch the toes. It seems that it already exists in another dimension and I captured it.” He chooses the material that “is best suited to the environment and the feel I have for the commission. Of course, price plays a part also.”
What inspires Sandro? “I find that great art inspires me the most. Be it music or sculpture or painting or literature.” He works on one piece at a time, because “all my efforts must be concentrated on the piece at hand;” and all his work is on commission.
Sandro is currently working on a “statue of Dante for the Italian Cultural Garden [in Rockefeller Park] here in Cleveland. It will be in bronze. The size is about eleven feet with the base, and the base will have niches with the central figures of the Divine Comedy in them.”
What does Sandro do in his spare time? His love of opera is still with him. “My hobby is music. I recently sang the role of Don Bazile in ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ here in Cleveland with the Opera Circle.”
Combining his love of opera and his love of sculpture, Sandro created a classic world of art for our listening and viewing pleasure.