Sculptor Jack Vasapoli’s work brings black musicians to life

By Erica Pandey

In celebration of Black History Month this February, Arts Department Head John Norton and Mixed Media Art Teacher Laura Tangusso brought Sculptor Jack Vasapoli’s work to the Upper School art gallery. The wood sculptures honor the contribution of black musicians to jazz.

Science teacher-turned-artist Jack Vasapoli not only sculpts but also plays jazz on the saxophone. He is a self-taught artist who draws inspiration from iconic musicians when creating sculptures.

“What was extraordinary to me about his work is the degree of personality that he creates out of a log of wood,” said Mr. Norton. “I think students and faculty really responded to the sculptures as people and as characters.”

According to Mr. Norton, the sculptures came alive because of Mr. Vasapoli’s careful oil painting, which created texture in the wood.

“This has been one of the most popular exhibits we’ve had in a long time,” said Mr. Norton. [The artist] has received positive feedback from many members of the school community.

“I am a jazz musician, and so when I learned that there was an exhibit by an artist that potrays jazz musicians, I was particularly drawn to the works,” said Bunnard Phan ‘14, who plays guitar in the Evening Jazz Ensemble.

Petropoulos Art Scholars Coordinator Parrish Dobson also organized an open gallery talk with Mr. Vasapoli to provide students with the chance to see the work up close.

Mr. Vasapoli spent time talking about his process and even let students try sculpting a piece-in-progress that he had brought along for the gallery talk.

“Whenever we have a visiting artist at BB&N, I always like to make a Petropoulos event so students can come hear what the artist has to say. Jack was very open about his work,” said Ms. Dobson. “He told us that it sometimes takes weeks to complete a sculpture, with sanding, painting, and glossing.”

Cam O’Reilly ’13, photo student and Petropoulos Art Scholar, attended the gallery talk and especially enjoyed the sculptures of Ray Charles and Duke Ellington.

“I thought it was brilliant how he had some of his larger sculptures, such as Duke Ellington’s, disassemble into several pieces for easy transport,” said Cam. “His sculptures were all so alive and full of emotion.”

“He has such a talent for capturing both the musician and the feeling of the music in a sculpture,” Ms. Dobson said.

Bunnard agreed: “I enjoyed looking at the sculptures. I was really impressed by the amount of expression that the artist was able to convey through them.”

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