Monday, August 27, 2007

Newspaper Article

Somerville Journal
Consumed by creativity
Local artist paints, sculpts, teaches and sells art
By Ryan Rose Weaver

photo by Zara Tzanev

Scott Cahaly, a sculptor and painter in Somerville, sat down at his
computer last month to write a letter to his friends. “As fate and my
bank account would have it, I have recently been taking on commissioned
work. If you’d be interested in a representational portrait in my style
of you or someone you know, please contact me.” Since then, Cahaly has
received two commissions, projects he gladly embraces as a means to a
full-time career as an artist. He’s been working toward this ideal for
the last 10 years. Cahaly has not always been an artist. He received a
revelation 10 years ago, he said, while meditating near the University of
Vermont at Burlington, where he was struggling with a major in English,
his second since coming to college. A voice spoke to him and told him he
should become an artist instead, and since then he has pursued this aim
single-mindedly. One of Cahaly’s earliest projects nearly consumed
him. After acquiring a 5,000-pound stone from a quarry in Vermont, Cahaly
dreamed of the sculpture inside, fully formed, a valley-shaped piece with
a woman’s face quizzically tilted sideways on one side, stocky limbs
grace-fully jumbled on the other side. He spent three years bringing the
design to life, then named it “New Nazca Stone” after the enigmatic,
ancient lines carved in the sands of southern Peru. Years later, the
piece still sits in his studio, still waiting for its patron to come. It
still weighs a hefty 2,500 pounds. When searching for a studio, Cahaly
said, he finally settled on the Mad Oyster Building on “the other side
of the tracks” in Somerville because his space, formerly a storage area
for heavy telephone company equipment had reinforced floors. The last
thing he needed after years of carving and carting the huge sculpture
around, he said, was to see it crash through the floor-boards. While
Cahaly’s computer now allows him to keep in touch with past and
prospective patrons who help him keep his dream afloat, technology is also
partly to blame for the slowed pace with which Cahaly’s career has
gathered momentum. The end of the millennium was not kind to nascent
artists like Cahaly: the dot-com boom, during which art sales rose with
stratospheric tech salaries, had disappeared by the time Cahaly began his
craft. “I started in quicksand, and I’m only now coming to dry
land,” Cahaly said. Many artists are finding their way to his
particular strip of dry land, on the corner of Pearl and Bradley streets
near Union Square. Near the Mad Oyster building is the older Brick Bottom
studio building, and like other waves of Somerville immigrants before it,
this budding artist’ community is growing as one member helps another
get hip to a good opportunity. “It’s becoming the new Cambridge,”
Cahaly said, then lowers his voice, as if revealing a secret. “But
don’t tell anyone that.” The stark intersection, which lies far from
any T-stop on a dark, littered street, may not yet be fertile ground for
luxury condos. But inside Cahaly’s studio is another story. At night,
it is lit from within by a riot of lamps, strewn with worn sofas, and
covered top to bottom in enormous paintings exploding with color. “New
Nazca Stone” sits squarely in the center, dwarfing a small meditation
altar that balances against one large industrial pillar. Smaller
sculptures, each about a foot square, are lined up like sentinels around
its perimeter. These pieces are more recent, and more sophisticated,
seemingly carved by water instead of Cahaly’s hand, marked only
subversive natural features left rough that hint at the human anatomy.
Cahaly describes his art as “just something that comes out of me,” but
the result is expertly composed, with deliberate color choices done by the
book. Not everyone wants to own, say, an elephant skull made of duct tape
(like a work recently displayed in the South End) but Cahaly’s work is
eminently consumer- and viewer-friendly. His paintings evoke familiar
icons such as hearts, spirals and Picasso–esque human figures; his
sculptures almost beg to be touched, and are small and sturdy enough to be
carried or placed on a coffee table. Both make an easy and instant
connection with audiences of all stripes; this is not likely lost on the
many galleries who have hosted his work in recent years. Cahaly now has
a regular stone sculpture teaching gig at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln,
and maintains a healthy schedule of gallery showings in well-regarded
Boston and New York venues. Yet so far, it is the community-based
Somerville Open Studios event that seems to have created many of
Cahaly’s sales leads, including the e-mail list he used recently to call
for commissions. One of Cahaly’s first collectors was John Coulter, who
lives a stone’s throw away in Union Square. An independent carpenter and
composer, Coulter purchased two of Cahaly’s early paintings, and said
his relationship to Cahaly is one of fellow artist rather then patron.
“Renovation (of a house) is very much a work of art. The tile mosaics,
the colors, the Feng Shui of it… I’m aligned with that energy, what
painters are doing,” Coulter said “(But my) music is eternally in the
ether, so it’s good to own something like sculpture or painting. I
wanted to connect and have something real.” Lori Falzarano, a real
estate agent, purchased of Cahaly’s paintings this year. She frequently
travels from her home in New Hampshire to see shows in Boston, and always
tries to make time to see Cahaly during open studios. “Scott and I
have become pretty good friends because of his art,” she says. “I
can’t afford the sculpture, but I really love (the piece) that’s in my
living room. I love the colors- it’s almost like stained glass.”
Cahaly is still continuing to search beyond Somerville for customers who
can buy his larger and more expensive pieces. Until then, he is cobbling
together small side projects to make rent, like his portrait project,
which Cahaly sees as “a nice balance” between bread-winning necessity
and structured creativity. His process is to take a .jpg of his subject,
sketch out the basic lines of their facial features, then color within the
lines as he likes. “If someone started nitpicking about the way I do it,
I’d just say “forget it,” said Cahaly. “I need to have that
creativity.” It’s difficult to imagine telling the strong-jawed
artist, whose manner is deliberate and firm, what to do with his art.
After all, a muse who requires its subject to change majors, change
addresses, and sacrifice three years in the name of one sculpture is
perhaps not a muse moved by rent checks alone. But for his collectors,
this sense of something that is not always malleable, tangible or even
conscious is precisely the selling point.

“His stuff is very refreshing to look at. He’s in touch with that
inner creative child. It touches something in you, because that’s where
creativity seems to be, before we get bogged down in life,” said
Coulter. “But his mastery of form and shape and colors keeps you engaged
as an aesthetically evolved adult.” -August 16-22, 2007