"Ms Capparell possesses a powerful sympathy for the mystical element in life...:

Lorraine Capparell’s delightfully unobtrusive showing of watercolours inspired by her visits to Montepulciano belies an abundant passion for its sensuous landscape and vibrant history. Taut compositions possessed of a tangible sense for Renaissance symmetry and colour are allowed to breath joyously in their simple, unframed mounts upon the rough-harled vernacular walls of the Galleria dell'Opio 27; intimate windows onto vertiginous topography which appear to hint at something hidden, merely waiting to be discovered.

Striking in these watercolours is what one might call a ‘layered vision’; each image hums with an air of expectancy, meaning and symbolism. These thoughtful, and apparently static, images gradually reveal themselves to concern symbolic movement: overgrown pathways, cloistered spaces, openings, closings, circular beginnings and ends. Journeys start from home and involve a changed return. For me, the moving and regenerative ‘Della Finestra’ is a particular favourite – an atmospheric landscape with an unusually low horizon; here we long to become ‘of the soil’, to decipher the rhythmic patterns of an enigmatic sky. Each of these touching watercolours represent what the English novelist E. M. Forster once called the ‘significant moment’; the pivot upon which life’s journey may turn.

Ms Capparell possesses a powerful sympathy for the mystical element in life; she is alive in response - her antennae is attuned as it were - to fleeting moments of mystical revelation. The local Etruscan landscape is layered with folk symbolism and meaning and this has not been lost on Ms Capparell. Indeed, it has drawn out here a fresh well-spring of creativity which may only be in its infancy. I look forward to seeing more of Ms Capparell’s ‘layered vision’ in paint – to feel again the intensity of insight already so palpable in her sculpture.

Andrew Stewart MacKay, Phd, Fellow of The Royal So, 2015

"Lorraine Capparell is one California's best kept secrets"

Lorraine Capparell is one California's best kept secrets. For a number of years her prolific mountain of extraordinary work has been accumulating in the San Francisco Peninsula. On a clear day I imagine that I can almost see it from our terrace here in Spoleto.

The collection is a captivating multicolored silhouette of drawings, paintings and heroic sculptures. She continues to evolve her work without a thought of commercial value or show. Sometimes I have seen her leaning over a masterpiece of construction, an uninhibited child, lost at play. "Here, I finished it, it is for you. Do you like it?"

The compositions that she creates each day in various sized papers explain what she feels. They are not a penance. Through her quiet motions of pen, brush, ink and paint I have often seen these daily pieces as visual meditations more in the manner of giving thanks.  

Seeing her work, over many years, as a companion in travel  throughout the world with her mentor husband, Lars Speyer, and my wife and travel guide, Deanie, the journey often found its way into a documentation with reverence for the commonplace, the mighty, the humorous and the profane.  

The crispness is Alaska as I imagine it. Tactile Lorraine dishing up an edible ice cream mound, a cold sweet mouthful of quashed and succulent malleable dessert she names 'Baked Alaska'. The spoon is handy there and makes it plausible. I can taste it.

In context with the other pictures in the book, the 'Baked Alaska' is not a naïve statement as one experiencing this image might first imagine. It delivers another part of the domain as vanilla might in a major confection.  

Lorraine Capparell is an artist. In genuinely working for herself she has found, for many of us, a memorable richness of seeing and feeling.  

~ Primo Angeli, Graphic Designer, Spoleto, Italy, September, 2004

"She could hardly have found a subject more suited to her themes than Jones"
~ Anne Telford


Storyteller is poised mid-sentence, her face suffused with the emotion of her tale. From the top of her head dance eighteen figures, each embodying one chapter of an epic story - both personal and universal. Colorfully misted paint and applied bead and feather jewelry animate the figures' gestures, bringing the pieces of life's puzzle together: birth, joy, sensuality, death.

Rhodessa Jones, whose performance piece The Blue Stories: Black Erotica On Letting Go, inspired the Storyteller sculpture, lived the tales told through the small clay figures. And she and sculptor Lorraine Capparell, have a story of their own. Friends since 1969 in Rochester, New York; they have collaborated both on and off the stage. In late 1992, Capparell painted nine 4 foot x 8 foot fabric backdrops backdrops for Jones' performance work, which necessitated putting the sculpture on hold until January 1993.

"My concept of the Storyteller was initiated and I did the first sketches, then I was interrupted by Rhodessa's need for something for the show, which evolved into these large paintings that would unfurl as she told her stories," Capparell explained. With the opening of The Blue Stories in San Diego, Capparell took many more performance photographs on which to base her sculpture.

Capparell studied sculpture with Steven DeStaebler at San Francisco State and, since 1981, has been creating large-scale figures, rich in archetypal female imagery, dreams and Buddhist symbology. She has traveled widely in Asia, studying Buddhist and Hindu sculpture, paintings and temple architecture.

"I make art to pay tribute to the spirit within." Capparell stated. "I use the body, born of Earth (clay), as the connector to higher consciousness. Form is emptiness; emptiness is form."

She could hardly have found a subject more suited to her themes than Jones. The colorful figures arising from the head of  Storyteller--a mother, father, grandmother and the 'trickster' - are all people from Jones' personal history, a recurring subject in her performance works.

Capparell began the process of creating the sculpture by drawing stick figures of all the different characters, using the photographs as reference. Then she had Jones pose for her, and narrowed the concept down to a bust. Next, Capparell covered a slab of clay with cloth: "I start building on a slab so the piece has an unattached base that will help prevent cracking and shrinking when it dries," she explained.

Then, she built an armature of clay. "The inside is hollow; there are interior walls because the heaviest part on a portrait bust is right where the head, chin and neck go down into the breastbone. Inside, there are two walls that form a V in the front and go up to support the neck and head."

For the remainder of the bust, she used what she calls an extended pinch method - from a small piece of clay, she made a rough ball then pinched it directly onto the sculpture. "It's a fairly fast way to build a form," she noted.

Finally, the individually made figures were attached to the completed head using the scoring and slipping process. The finished bust weighs about 75 pounds, is 27" high x 19" wide and 11" deep-"so it fits in my kiln". Though fired slowly to minimize stress, there were some very small cracks. Concerned bout refiring the piece, Capparell decided to airbrush it with acrylics instead of glazing.

The finished sculpture picks up colors used in the borders of The Blue Stories panels and reflects African influences. The polka dot leopard pattern on the chest, for instance, refers to the leopard skin clothing traditionally worn by African chiefs and shamans. After the figures were painted, Capparell "had a vision of them decorated like African sculptures, with beads and feathers. I went to all my friends and got beads, copper wire, seed beads, an anklet."

Storyteller was shown during a September 1995 performance of The Blue Stories: Black Erotica on Letting Go in Bayfront Theater at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.

~ Anne Telford, Editor at Large, San Francisco, CA, February, 1996

650.493.2869 | LorraineCapparell@skymuseum.com