UConn professor creates art piece for children of Aleppo

UConn Associate Professor of Sculpture and Drawing Ray DiCapura presents a background of one of his pieces and answers questions from the audience at the Benton on Wednesday, February 8. DiCapura is a two-time McDowell Colony resident and has exhibited his works at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. (Akshara Thejawsi/The Daily Campus)

Ray DiCapua, an art and art history professor in the University of Connecticut’s fine arts department, created an enormous piece to be hung in the Benton’s contemporary art section for the Faculty Art Show last week. The focus of the talk hosted by DiCapua was the piece titled “Aleppo Is A Place Where The Children No Longer Cry” and how it was meant to create a dialogue about the grand scope of cloth and how it connects to many aspects of the human experience around the world. Particularly, it connects to the recent genocide in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

“My intentions were to disrupt the echo of social media and really connect people who view my art to the people and agencies that are helping,” DiCapua said. “I want my pieces to create dialogue, especially if they are to be shown in public spaces. If there is no opportunity for dialogue, then I don’t see why.”

He continued on to explain the long process of generating momentum and a message for the piece. DiCapua spent many hours attempting to immerse himself in the lives of these people on the other side of the globe and the horrors they endured, initially through photos, then through writing and ultimately through video in an attempt to generate empathy and emulate their experience, “which (he) knew ultimately was impossible for (him) to understand fully.”

DiCapua captured the audience with extreme intensity of his perspectives and methods. He explained that he was inspired by the sort of beauty that can be observed when something is unraveling. When something is coming apart on such a scale, it feels as though it is an unstoppable force. But as he explored the media available to him from Aleppo, he began to notice a commonality between the images: cloth.

“It was used to bandage and carry the injured, to hang out of windows displaying messages and to wrap the dead.” DiCapua said.

DiCapua started to realize the significance of cloth in the human world and its universal and organic nature; and thus, he channeled it into his work.

“There was a lot of religious context in the work (DiCapua) did, touching on the history of fabric in religion and in a broader cultural context,” fine arts graduate student Luke Seward said. “The people he spoke about in Aleppo can be seen in the fabric. The contours of bodies, the shapes of faces really holds the full physical weight in the context of the dialogues he wishes to create.”

The piece is roughly 15-by-15 feet and took about 270 hours of drawing with vine charcoal alone to complete, not to mention the research, process and planning that DiCapua said went into creating such a large piece.

“Although I was not familiar with his previous work, simply walking during the opening of the show was astounding,” fine arts sculpture artist masters student River Soma said. “I had never seen anyone draw this way or this large. It emanates spiritual qualities and has such a deep intimacy, on a large scale, which was so shocking.”


Dan Wood is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.wood@uconn.edu.