California is beginning to open up a little, but for the past few months much of the world’s people have been staying inside their homes to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Napa’s artists have quietly been creating art. This is the eighth in a series about what local artists have been doing during this unprecedented time.
When the need for social distancing is over Peter Scaturro looks forward to “giving thanks over a meal and laughing with friends.”
In the meantime, the Napa artist continues doing what he has done for most of his life by creating abstract expressionist ink drawings as well as watercolor and acrylic paintings. He has temporarily put making his ceramic sculptures on hold.
“The greatest impact from COVID-19 for me is I live life more slowly with more practiced awareness and developed appreciation for the beauty of simplicity,” Scaturro said.
Since sheltering in place, he has been focusing more on smaller ink abstracts rather than his larger watercolors and his drawing is more “intimate and comforting now.”
“As soon as I open the door to my treasured studio, I feel a sense of solace and inspiration,” Scaturro said. “I’m really enjoying the flow of creating these new pieces in my WhiteNight-BlackLight series (WNBL).”
The path that led Scaturro to choose art as a career began long ago when he was young.
He can remember making art as a child in the back of a station wagon while his family was driving through the southern part of Spain, where they lived for two and a half years. With a father in the Navy, he traveled to many places but grew up primarily in Philadelphia.
During his junior year, while studying art in Rome, he had a transcendent experience.
“One evening walking along the Tiber River I was wrestling with whether to complete both semesters and suddenly I had a profound ‘knowing’ I was to spend my lifetime creating art, Scaturro said. “I was so moved I started singing. So far, that revelation has rung true.”
After his studies in Rome, he went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia.
Later, Scaturro went back to Rome for a year where his art skills were used in making posters and cover art for magazines connected with the Food and Agricultural Organization, under the United Nations umbrella.
A few years after graduation, he lived in San Francisco where he worked part-time in the restaurant and travel business while he continued working on his art and deepening his inner awareness of the creative process as well as promoting, exhibiting and selling his art.
He lived in Mill Valley before moving to Napa in 2007. He was drawn to Napa because some members of Napa Arts Council were “very encouraging” to him.
Scaturro has taught abstract watercolor and other art classes for Napa Valley Adult Education and at Napa State Hospital but spends most of his time creating his own art in his studio.
Scaturro has been most inspired by the Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky, who is generally credited with being the pioneer of abstract art and whose approach to art was spiritual and philosophical.
Recently, Scaturro has also been inspired by the Swedish artist and mystic, Hilma af Klint, who did some abstracts that predated those by Kandinsky. Since Kandinsky and Klint died in 1944, Scaturro never met either of them but their legacy has influenced his work.
“They both, in different ways, painted from an inner necessity. They also were attracted to the mystical in the creative process,” Scaturro said. “I have long shared that attraction and experience.”
“I evolved into becoming an abstract expressionist painter and ceramic sculptor as I listened more to an inner voice that was in sync with my spiritual consciousness,” he said.
Lately, he is drawn to using “warmer, consoling colors” contrasted with black, sepia and sometimes bronze.
“The initial pen lines are, once I take a meditative pause, put down quickly while deeply trusting in the wise power of intuition to guide me,” he said. “In a way, these are the map lines that lead me to develop and complete the work.”
“Much the same happens with the larger watercolors, except they start with luscious swaths of water and color,” he added.
In his “Luminous Union and Unknowing” series, which can be seen on his website, Scaturro reflects about Luminous #23, which he created in January, perhaps hinting at “the oncoming pandemic.”
“It shows that the positive and heroic human ascent—symbolized by the white ladder—is being challenged by the jagged, dark organic mass coming from the right,” he said. “Nevertheless, the ladder does reach the top.”
Has Scaturro’s work taken a new direction?
“The direction of my work continues to be a wonderful mystery,” he said. “I embrace a state of ‘unknowing’ hence my art is more deeply true to life during these COVID-19 months. I experience a greater creative force working through me. I share this with many artists.”
For Scaturro, a constant renewing of intuitive trust is part of his creative process, he said. It allows for an openness to fresh movements by his brush or pen, which leads each piece in its own new direction.
“It’s like the pandemic has caused me to put a magnifying glass on myself and the creative process,” he said.
Scaturro said that the ink drawings he created in an April series are a “quest for a transcendent spiritual unity.”
“I believe this striving for wholeness is due to my subconscious reaction to the disunity this pandemic has caused,” he said. “I find them healing to create and hope those that see and purchase them benefit too.”
Scaturro has been meditating for 35 years and has co-led a Monday night silent meditation group at the Napa Methodist Church for more than nine years.
He has attended at least a dozen five-day, East-West silent meditation retreats at the Mercy Center in Burlingame.
“The spiritual experience I gain (through meditation) empowers my creative process,” he said.
Scaturro wants to create artworks that evoke as sense of the mystical, a memorable emotional response, an intellectual involvement and an experience of unusual beauty.
“I hope my works can also be seen as mysterious visual parables,” he said. “They can be interpreted in numerous ways.”
“Often there is a resistance to trust what is unknown and unproven, let alone see beauty in it, yet abstract expressionist art is a most exciting, adventurous and rewarding place to explore and settle into,” he said.
Scaturro discovered that his biggest challenge during this unprecedented time has been opening his “heart more than normal for so many who are suffering both invisibly and outwardly.”
His greatest insight has been discovering a deeper inner peace that is “hard won but when experienced is a gift of grace.”
Scaturro’s work has appeared in many solo and group exhibits and magazines. It is in the permanent collections of the Achenbach Foundation at the Palace of Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco and the Museo ItaloAmericano in San Francisco. Also, his work is in private art collections.
The late Dr. Peter Selz, who was founding director of the Berkeley Art Museum as well as an art historian, professor and author and art critic hosted a “pop-up show” in his home of Scaturro’s work in 2017.
“I feel very fortunate to have known him (Dr. Selz)” Scaturro said.
“His commentary on my work in part reads ‘Peter Scaturro’s recent watercolors…were produced with spontaneous painterly energy and make us think of the abstract expressionist canvasses created by Kandinsky. Similarly, but with a 21st century outline. Scaturro produces pictures which suggest luminous organic forms with pulsating colors,’” Scaturro said.
In April 2020, Scaturro was one of five winners in the “highly publicized” Art.Jobs.com online competition. Updates to his career can be seen in his monthly newsletter.
In addition to creating his own art, Scaturro teaches private art lessons.
Scaturro’s studio is open by appointment for showing and selling his work, while practicing current safety guidelines.