Native vision by Italian engineer
November 6, 2012
Tucked in the corner of the Vicenza Exchange food court is a display of Native American art that looks like it is on loan from the Seattle Art Museum. Hand carved wall murals, wooden masks and sculptures, crafted over forty years by local Italian artist Natalino Soffia are on display at the base as part of Native American Heritage month. Soffia said he fell in love with the Native American art and culture of the Pacific Northwest when he was working in Seattle in the 1970's.
"At first I became acquainted with the Indians of the northwest, then I began to read about their culture and it developed into an appreciation and exploration of my own," said Soffia.
Soffia, who is a mechanical engineer, said his father was a carpenter and that it was a familiar activity for him to work with chisels and wood and slowly he began carving masks and panels. One large panel depicting an Indian dancing at a powwow he explained was from a photo he took of the event in Portland, Oregon.
"The design and style is unique and everything has meaning and is pleasant and nice to look at," said Soffia. "I often work with a soft local wood that is like pine for my panels."
He added that he would like to go back to America and study for a few months the meaning of the figures the Indians draw.
"I made a wood carving of a girl riding on the back of a whale for my niece who is a marine biologist; I know the story behind the figures, but I would like to know more about the significance."
This is the second year Soffia has displayed parts of his collection at the base in support of Native American Heritage month.
Equal Opportunity Advisor, Master Sgt. Richard Colon, said he first learned about Soffia's collection when he put out a call to Vicenza Military Community for volunteers and Soffia's wife, who works on the base, contacted him about showing the collection.
"It is nice to be able to share my passion and work with the community," said Soffia. "Some people stop and appreciate the look and a few ask questions."
Additional Native American Heritage events at the Vicenza Military community include a display at the Post Library and a guest speaker on Nov. 15.