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Seeing art in everything

AE Ed Alpi PU 8-17
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AVON “-Some artists tell tales about the days of yore, when they had to find materials for their sculptures in frozen ponds and drag them three miles through the mud and snow.

In the case of Wildridge artist Ed Alpi, the tales are true.

Alpi is someone who sees art in everything “-cubes of marble, dead juniper roots, rusted blacksmith tools, trash.



Recognize his name? Alpi’s father, Angelo, was the first mayor of Avon in the 1970s. Now, Angelo lives in Maine, and Ed, 53, has lived in the valley for 11 years.

Unlike most artists in the valley, marketing is not Alpi’s forte. In fact, it’s totally foreign to him. Alpi is a man who knows Harley Davidson bikes, leather vests, politics and art. To make a living, he does carpentry work in fancy houses around the valley.



His partner, Deena DiCorpo, created his Web site, http://www.artpendectomy.com. The idea of artpendectomy was Alpi’s.

“When you get your appendix out, you have an appendectomy.

When I get my art out, it’s artpendectomy,” he said.



Alpi’s first sculpture was a wooden letter opener he gave to his mother on Mother’s Day when he was 7 years old. These days, his art requires a little more legwork. And every corner of his home in Avon is piled high with sculptures, paintings, air brush pieces and other multi-media pieces.

“My father wanted to be an artist,” said Alpi. “It’s funny, because he was raised in Greenwich Village (New York). His parents were right off the boat from Italy. Their idea of an artist was the Bohemians they saw in the street. But nobody’s ever dissuaded me from being an artist. I knew from when I was old enough to hold a pencil, that’s what I wanted. I see art in everything. I always have.”

In the same way some people see figures and shapes in clouds, Alpi sees them in wood. Some of the most striking pieces in Alpi’s collection are made from enormous pinyon and juniper roots. And the undertaking for Alpi often begins with dragging 300-pound pieces out of river beds and up steep embankments.

“A good number of these came from when Lake Powell reached its highest point,” said Alpi, indicating the throng of enormous pieces in his living room which have been transformed into colorful carvings that resemble smoke, leaves, animals and other contortions. Some are symbolic. Some are political. “Patriot Act” features an enormous flame placed inside a rendering of the U.S. constitution, strategically burning up the Fourth Amendment.

“I did this around 9/11 when they did the Patriot Act and decided they didn’t need a warrant to go in your house anymore,” Alpi said. “That bugs me. A lot of things bug me.”

Another piece “- “Nucleic Assault,” depicts “a creature created by messing with DNA,” as Alpi describes. “I don’t think man is mature enough to be messing with DNA.”

His convictions are strong, and so is the rest of him. He drags enormous pieces of wood miles and miles to his “studio,” sometimes envisioning their metamorphosis every step of the way.

“When the Colorado River reached its highest point, all the driftwood washed up into the canyons. The water receded and left everything there. None of these pieces looked anything like this when they started out,” he said.

“This one came from the Colorado River,” said Alpi, pointing to “Eye of the Serpent,” an enormous piece of pinyon root naturally tied into a knot that Alpi crafted into a snake coming out of a tree. “It was growing, then it hit a rock and the root grew out of it. It couldn’t get by the rock, so it just kept growing around itself three times until it split the rock. Then it grew out of the hole in the rock. Just the top was sitting out of the embankment. The embankment was about 150 feet, at a steep angle with real loose sand. The sand kept moving away from underneath me as I was trying to cut it. Then, my weight pulled it out and this whole thing emerged. It was just a dead root. That’s a cool piece of wood. I almost ruined it by cutting it all off.”

Sometimes the roots Alpi finds require years to dry before he can begin the process of sanding, dying and waxing. Last spring in Wolcott, he found two pieces, one which “looks just like Salvador Dali’s ‘Dead Horse,'” and the other which Alpi has already begun carving into a curtain with children’s faces peeking out. Because they were submerged in mud, Alpi waited until 4 a.m. to go back for them when the ground was frozen.

Such is the history before the art begins.

“I take all the dry rotted wood off. With a lot of them, it’s not until that point that I have any idea at all what they’re going to be” Alpi said. “Once I’ve got them clean, that’s when I study them to see what I’m going to make. Sometimes they’re right there. The piece yells out at you what it’s going to be. If nothing’s happening, I’ll work on it a little at a time. It is similar to looking at clouds. I did that a lot as a child. Sometimes other people don’t see it. Then you point it out to them, and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah!'”

Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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