Carla Lavatelli Chronology 1928 - 2006


1928 - 1956

Carla Lavatelli was born in Rome, Italy on August 21, 1928. Her father was from Piedmont, a man blessed with a serene and enlightening radiance. Her brother Alberto, a poet, was born in 1939. The Lavatelli's are a family of artists, inventors and engineers. Carla's childhood was difficult and lonely. She grew up and went to a Catholic school in Rome during the second world war. Then she studied foreign languages and literature at Ca'Foscari, Venice. She also spent part of her childhood in Africa and had vivid memories of the aviary in the garden of her home. Her playmates were a gazelle, a monkey, and a donkey. She did not attend art school, but rather learned about sculpture from working in the foundries with marble cutters, carpenters and steel welders. She was married in 1947.

Carla had one child, Carlo, who was born on April 9th, 1949. She lived in Los Angeles with periods abroad. She began painting and weaving, and also creating some graphics. She had several group exhibitions, but became very discouraged by her lack of success. She began to paint less and less, making her way by doing odd jobs. None of which were connected to the art world. In 1956, she became an American citizen.


1957 - 1966

Carla separated from her first husband and then divorced him in 1957. After which, she returned to Italy and destroyed nearly all of her earlier work. She began to spend time in Paris, where she frequented French artist's exhibits. She also studied the weaving methods of Gobelin and Aubusson, and started working in clay, poly-chromed terracotta, wood and wax. During that time, she continued working with potter Annicchiarico, which included doing some ceramic works. She worked in the foundries in Rome and learned how to use the lost-wax process. Traveling to Venice to work in glass, Carla began combining ceramics and glass. After developing a stained window technique, she starts making small windows and glass objects. She then sets up a studio at 54 Via Margutta in Rome.

She was not politically involved, though she was socially conscious. Especially when it came to caring about children. She entered a competition for a public sculpture at FAO, and presented her first wood carving, "I, Poverelli," unrealized. She had the first solo exhibition of her figurative sculptures, in poly-chromed terracotta and bronze, in 1965 at Palazzo Cerio in Capri. It was sponsored by the Ente del Turismo, and was followed by her first solo exhibition at Carpine, Rome. She then has exhibits in Milan (silver sculptures, with semi-precious stones) and Spoleto, where she met Mirko and Cidonio. A documentary film is made about Carla by Incom Newsreel, which is shown daily in theaters throughout Italy. During this period she becomes mainly a portraitist; working from life and photographs. Making portrait busts to support herself, she showed them successfully. Though the veridical portrait held no interest for her, she enjoyed doing busts of children. Images of children and dancers constituted a major body of work during this period.

She began working directly in wax, getting interested in public spaces and produced some geometrical constructed sculptures. She makes sheet metal abstractions, then exhibits them in her first solo show, in New York, in 1966. Birds and bronze weldings, from paper cut-outs, are the last works of her figurative period. Then she did a series of multi-part floor sculptures in bronze and marble. She creates stainless steel and bronze models for public projects, all unrealized. The work on her first fountain, “The Rainbow,” which combines stainless steel, light, water and perspex, occurred between 1963-1965. During this time, she also makes wine labels for Italian wineries. It is also when she does her first figurative weaving from early still-life painting.



The Officina Cidonio, a non-profit organization for artists who work in stone, invited Carla to work in Pietrasanta, Italy. She is the youngest of the group, and the only woman. This is where she meets Marino Marini, Henry Moore, Jack Lipchitz and Isamu Noguchi. All of the artists who live and work on the premises are there by invitation only. The sculptures created there are permanently exhibited. This is also where she carves her first major outdoor travertine and granite sculptures. During frequent lunch discussions about the situation of the art world, Carla and Isamu Noguchi decide to build spaces to house their work as an alternative to the museum's basement. They also discuss giving their work as a gift to public institutions. Carla shares a studio with Isamu Noguchi, at the Officina Cidonio, for the following seven years. She continues working on her two-part stone sculptures. She then does “Triangles To Infinity,” which is first shown at the Officina Cidonio. After that she begins a new abstract weaving “The Perfect Day.”


1968 - 1973

In 1968, in Palm Beach, she exhibits her fountain, “The Rainbow,” as well as her bronze castings and weldings, from paper cut-outs. This was followed in 1969-1970 by her last solo exhibitions, which still included some figurative work, in Bari, Rome, New York, Los Angeles and Geneva with Madame Motte, where her work is shown to the Shah of Iran. In 1969, Carla is commissioned to do a life-size bronze portrait of Princess Grace of Monaco and her three children for the Palace in Monaco. She was also commissioned to make a life-size bronze portrait of Nate and Francis Spingold for the Spingold Theater at Brandeis University. This commission from Francis Spingold was the last of her portraits. In 1970, she receives the first of six monumental sculpture commissions by the Shah of Iran for the Palace and the Museum of Modern Art in Teheran. Carla is represented by Marlborough Gallery in Rome, and makes the first in a series of lithographs with Bulla. She then makes a stainless steel model of “The City,” commissioned by Albert Mayer. It was for a public sculpture to be erected in the courtyard of The New School. The project is interrupted by Albert Mayer's death. Carla came back to America in 1970 and establishes her studio in New York at 75th and York. This is where she does her first sculptures in paper and installations, suspending the paper with cord and reed, so that air will make each sheet levitate at its own rhythm, forever changing. The work includes the space it’s in. Her practice of installation art is looked upon suspiciously by the establishment.

Carla then begins working with light and shadow. She also start doing environmental wood structures. Between 1969 and 1970, she makes jewelry and the first of her “Sculptures To Wear.” She exhibits them in Chicago, New York, Paris and Montreal. A documentary is filmed about her New York exhibit by Ruggero Orlando, and is shown by RAI-TV-1: News from New York. She then visits Isamu Noguchi's first studio on Long Island and is impressed. She meets Gittou Knoup, Nevelson and Marisol, who visit her studio in Rome. She has her first solo exhibition of marble floor sculptures and bronze-stainless steel abstraction in Japan at the Hakone Museum. Then she does the public sculpture “1 1/2” for the New Law School, Skydmore Owen and Merryl, installed in Crocker Gardens at Stanford University, dedicated by President Ford. The event is filmed by Abba International NYC. This peoject gets her invited to visit the White House. Stanford graduate students choreograph and perform ballet on campus inspired by Lavatelli's sculptures.

The Italian Chamber of Deputies acquires for the Pinacoteca di Stato in Rome her figurative bronze bas-relief CANTI E GIOCHI, originally made in 1960. Joseph Hirshorn visits the Via Margutta studio to request a donation of work for the future museum in Washington. After which she then travels to Japan, China, India, Persia, Israel, Germany, Holland, France and Greece. Working in stone, she makes objects, tables and lamps and exhibits them in Los Angeles. After she is evicted from Via Margutta Studio in Rome, she is invited by Horace Kadoorie to visit his philanthropic endeavors in Hong Kong. This is where she makes three of her largest weavings. After Cidonio dies in 1972, she starts construction of her own stoneyard in nearby Pietrasanta at what will becomes the Carla Lavtelli Working Place and Sculpture Garden. She destroys all of her plasters of her portraits. She continues to work in stone and paper, and creates a few bronzes, weavings and collages. The first version of “The Fountain With The Permanent Shadow,” a project for a plaza, which is a sun controlled water sculpture.

She begins making models of fountains, included are the models for “The Peace Booth” (installation/performance) and for “Playground.” These were created to teach children about water, earth, wind, flowers, and trees. At the site there is a space for storytelling, a theater for puppets and a band to play on Sundays. A documentary film was made in 1972 by Josh Gawronsky about Carla working at the 75th Street New York Studio. In 1973 the Officina Cidonio is closed. She then executes “Golden Pond” for the Botanical Gardens at Freiburg University in Freiburg, Germany. Then she realizes and sculpts “Stele For a Prayer” and “Stele For Peace” in granite. She also makes “Maps Of Light and Shadow” out of lavagna and white PS marble, and does the weaving of “The Birth Of Light.”



1974 - 1979

In 1974, Carla had a solo exhibition at Iolas in New York and at the Phillips Collection in Washington. Also, she shows “Maps Of Light And Shadow” in Altissimo in 1974. She spends time in Wyoming at the site of the jade quarries to extract boulders for monumental sculptures, architectural structures and objects. This project was interrupted due to Mr. Hunger's death. She then does “Ripped.” Which is a collection of 4 small scale models of black and white tapestries to be woven in Aubusson. Included is “Chapel Of All Religions,” which is a model of a church with a glass roof and water flowing. She wanted to create a space always looking at the sky. It was unrealized.

She then makes her first alabaster sculpture, “For The Light.” “Stele For a Prayer” is acquired by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She has a solo exhibition at Gimpels in 1976, where she shows her granite and marble pieces, and some floor sculptures. She also does the field installation “For Spring.” It is hand-knitted raw silk and cotton sheets shaped and stressed by wind. Carla then helps on a photographic project by Carlo Lavatelli Herrmann. The project is a series called “Fragile, Perishable Environments.” Due to a terrible accident, where much of her work is damaged or destroyed, she experiences a severe illness and is “blinded by rage.” Once restored to good health, she leaves Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer in 1978.

After the unfortunate incident, she begins work on “A Place For Prayer” and “A Space For Peace” (a water, earth and stone burial place). Her stone and marble sculpture, “Maps Of Light: Negative and Positive,” is destroyed and removed from St. Peter's Lutheran Church. She then builds her own space from an abandoned garage in the landmark building at 140 Thompson Street in New York. Her suspended floating sheets of paper are first noticed by photographer, collector and philanthropist Aaron Rose and his wife Jessica. In 1978, her first major happening, together with music, is made in their building at 392 West Broadway. The installation “Festa For The Roses” is visited by the public, filmed by Carla, herself, and photographed by Aaron Rose. He presents Carla with 30 black and white photographs of the event. It remains on view for one year. Later, two sculptures are installed at Princeton University, at the Woodrow Wilson Building (Yamasaki), and at the Institute of Advanced Studies (Robert Geddes)on loan for two years.

She then works on projects and presents mock-ups for public sculptures with Skydmore Owen and Merryl, Milo Barnum Associates, Pomeroy and Lebduska, and Davies and Brody, to name a few. All of which is unrealized. During this time, she is also commissioned to do a sculpture for Park 80 Plaza West, New Jersey (Bernard Grad Partnership). She also creates a sculpture and a weaving for Sandoz. At the end of this time period, the stone sculpture “Black Bodigoi,” is acquired by the Williamsburgh Muscarelle Museum.


1980 - 1985

Carla continues to carve in alabaster to combine light/shadow, weight/lightness with the surge of water. She does “Little Roof Big Sun,” “A Muslin To Show You The Wind,” “A Page Of Light For a Line That Unites Two Points,” and “The Light And The Limit.” She also keeps herself busy by working on major private commissions, paper installations, the handmade silk rag, and her limited edition book: “A Cotton Bag Full Of Stardust.” The book is about her paper sculptures and installations between the years 1970-1981.

She starts to work on the projects “Playground” in Harlem and “The Fountain With The Permanent Shadow,” which has an electronic and hydraulic system that was designed and patented by her son, Carlo Lavatelli Herrmann. Also, she makes a series of environmental happenings for the community, to stimulate togetherness and peace. She believes that art should not only be a single individualistic experience for the privileged few.

She gets involved with using visual music and the sound of water. She makes two models for water sculptures: “For Birth” and “To Catch A Drop,” which is a water sculpture for the rain. Carla is very partial to water, which she shows in her work with religious reverence. In December of 1981, she gets married again. In 1985, she begins working on her second book. She completes construction in Tuscany of The Carla Lavatelli Working Place and Sculpture Garden. Receiving a major private commission and a book project with Abrams, she makes the first of a series of silk tapestries and collages titled “Woods In Bloom And Waterfalls.”

In 1984, she receives a commission for a monumental bronze and stainless steel sculpture, originally made in the late 60's, for the campus of Brown University in Providence, R.I. It is to be installed on Graduation Day in May of 1985. She loses enthusiasm for the publication with Abrams, due to a series of delays, and decides to publish her own book. “The Work of Carla Lavatelli by Carla Lavatelli... 1970-1984” is distributed throughout the world and sold in 28 museums, including the Metropolitan, Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian, Tate, Pompidou and Fondation Maeght. She spends time on site while quarrying 35 tons alabaster boulders. They are being extracted from 300 feet below the ground. She completes the working model, with collaboration from her son, Carlo, of “The Fountain With The Permanent Shadow.” This plaza was first proposed in 1974, and was re-proposed by the Joukowsky Family Foundation in 1985. It was also unrealized in 1989.


1986 - 1989

She makes a paper happening at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York for the Holy Week Centennial Celebration. It is inaugurated in conjunction with the Johann
Sebastian Bach Cathedral Choir Concert in 1986. A video of the event is made by Abba International, NYC. It is published in The New York Times, Part 2, November 15, 1987. She completes a series ofcollages and two alabaster water sculptures, “L'Infinito” and 'The City Of Light.” Carla continues carving in alabaster and wood. She also begins work on “Woods In Bloom And Waterfalls,” a handwoven/hand-stitched silk tapestry, and the project “Marching Forest.”

In 1987, she submits again the proposal for “The Fountain With The Permanent Shadow” and a “Golden Pond” project for a public outdoor location. Both went unrealized. She does complete one silk tapestry for her own space in Tuscany, part of the “Woods In Bloom” series. She receives four private stone and bronze commissions to be installed by the fall of 1989. Photographs by Emett Bright of the Lavatelli Working Place and Sculpture Garden are published for the first time in the Architectural Digest series: “Sculptors in Their Studio.” Then she begins work on a medals project: 32 bronze medals for NEA of San Francisco. A proposal for a sculpture at sea from her early 1966 work “Un Giro Di Gabbiani,” what she considered a modern Statue of Liberty; a symbol of togetherness, peace and freedom, to be made in the South of France, pending. A proposal of an outdoor ceramic sculpture for The Fattoria of Celle in Santomato, Italy, was, also, unrealized.

She continued to search for a site for “The Fountain With A Permanent Shadow,” a project she had planned to do with her son, Carlo. This unique, daily event for the community is meant to bring people together from all over the world. To encourage living with less violence and more compassion. The derelict 16th century olive mill is now restored to life. Carla had reconstructed the walls, windows, ceilings, and floors. She built a stoneyard studio, and had created all the art, furniture, and artifacts within the house. Carla Lavatelli's Working Place is a living space for her multi-faceted art and her largest work, a live-in sculpture. This place provides a specific focus in time and place and it has been, for the last 18 years, the center of Lavatelli’s existence. It is the landscape she came to know intimately and made possible the series of “Woods In Bloom And Waterfalls,” the water sculptures incorporating rivers, wind, light and shadow. The Working Place and Sculpture Garden was opened to the public in 1988 from May 15 to October 15. Her space at 140 Thompson was opened to the public by appointment, as of November 1st, 1988. She has been out of the gallery system for the last decade and a half.



1990 - 1995

During 1995, she received commissions for tapestry and water in Mougins, France, and a Happening for a prayer at the 16th Century Monument in Pistoia. She begins working at a furnace in the South of France to research and develop a 52 color palette for ceramic sculptures. The first Happening in Italy was on May 3, 1991, in the church of San Giovanni Bartolomeo. It had consisted of paper, cord, reed and the Japanese bamboo flute: The Shakuhachi, by Yoshikazu Iwamoto. It was to inaugurate the Spring/Summer Art Season for the City of Pistoia. The event is sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Giuliano Gori of the Art Spaces Collection in Celle of Santomato.

She then works on her project “Happening For Peace.” It was created to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of United Nations, in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center in New York City and in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The event to stimulate peace and togetherness was scheduled to take place in 1995. The project received the official endorsement of the UN on December 3, 1992. An installation, by four photographers, about her life and work was inaugurated in June,1993 at the Picasso Museum of Photography in Mougins, France. The photographers were Emett Bright, Filippo Conforti, Joel Greenberg, and Carlo Lavatelli Herrmann. The film “Happening For A Prayer- Pistoia, 1991” and “Festa-New York City, 1986” are shown daily. On September 27, 1993, Carla had surgery for cancer.

She receives a commission for “Urban Project,” a plaza at Saint Jacques le Majeur, Mougins, France. Inaugurated on May 13, 1995, the plaza is given the name of her project, “Place Du Banc Des Amis.” She receives a gold medal for outstanding public contribution to the City of Mougins. While her proposal for “Happening For Peace” in Paris is pending, she writes, produces books, collages, drawings and small carvings. The installation of The United Nations Project For Peace takes place at the Pecci Museum of Contemporary Art in June, 1995. After that, the installation of “Fragile Perishable Environment” is shown at the Renoir Museum in October, 1995. Carla continued to search for a place and sponsors to help realize “The Fountain With A Permanent Shadow.” The project “The Chapel For All Religions,” first proposed in 1970, is still pending. The ceramic free standing murals, “Woods In Bloom And Waterfalls,” initiated as of 1990, in the South of France, is also still pending. She has works in progress for exhibitions in New York, Cannes, and Antibes for a traveling retrospective of her work.

The sculpture “1-1/2” is dedicated by President Ford in 1975, but is vandalized on the campus of Stanford University, California, in March of 1995. In February and March of 1996, the project with Leo Castelli, which was scheduled for inauguration in Spring of 1996, is canceled by his new wife. Carla proceeded to writes a three act comedy, “Leo and the Tarantula,” in June. She then leaves New York after a 35-year period and moves the studio at 140 Thompson street in SoHo to the Working Place & Sculpture Garden in Tuscany. The Wood Line, a 70 foot long sitespecific sculpture, is purchased with the studio by an Australian architect. In October, the 12th Annual event in New York City, “Looking at Life,” at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the blessing of the animals was broadcast by Channel 13 WNET, NYC. Her catalog and poster were published by Abba International. In December, serious family problems were causing illness, yet again. "Chi di spada ferisce, di spada perisce" Two of her sculptures, “Interlocking Forms” in bronze and “Growing High” in marble, are purchased by Mary Mochari of the Kasser Foundation in the USA. The flood in Tuscany causes severe damages, and a period of illness. She presents a project for the garden and windows of Notre Dame de Vie in Mougins, France. She works on restoration of her bronze & stainless steel sculpture “1½.”



1996 - 2006

Her project for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the High Altar, the Cope of the very Reverend Dean Alan Jones and the processional banner, is realized in 1997-1998, with its inauguration at Easter in 1998. Carla was at work on silk models at her indoor studio Tuscany in 1997. She goes on to outline and proof 5 books for future publication:”A Plaza for the City of Mougins...une histoire d’amour 1994-1996,” including photographs by Jacqueline Salmon, André Villers, Carlo Lavatelli Herrmann, Oliviero Toscani, “Poems and Essays,” by Silvio Ceccato, Le Courbusier, Baudelaire, Brecht. “Parmi les Oliviers at the Renoir Museum 1995, A book of days The Power of Hope, 50 years of letters good, bad, useless Ephemeral and not, projects and installations 1987-1996,” Photographs by Carlo Lavatelli Herrmann, text by the people of the street and children. “My Family the life of an independent sculptor, too many obstacles for a dream. A biography.” She was trying to produce a catalog to be printed about the tables, furniture, lamps, objects and jewelry she made between 1970-96. Submitted projects: Un Giro di Gabbiani to celebrate love and freedom, and an outdoor mural in New York City that was awaiting approval. “The Fountain with the Permanent Shadow,” carved model made in 1970, with an electronic working model realized by Carlo Lavatelli Herrmann in 1985-86. It is a sun-activated fountain operating with water in San Francisco. “The Chapel for All Religions” was being proposed to various cities to also bring back to life abandoned areas project. It was originally made in 1973. Laisser un signe éphémère et non Picasso Museum Antibes. “The Window of Hope” which was made for the Pope Giovanni Paolo II, Vatican City, Rome. The sculpture “1½,” was vandalized and restored. It is now permanently installed again in the Fairchild Auditorium at the Stanford Medical Center in Stanford, California. She also received a commission from a collector in NYC for alabaster carving “For the Light.”