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DovBer Marchette, An American Artist Honored in Italy, Waits For Similar Recognition At Home By Michael Levin

Boston artist DovBer Marchette wants to replicate his success in Italy with recognition at home. Marchette has been a recognized and admired artist for decades, having exhibited and sold his works around the United States. Now, however, the artist is reaching levels of attention and respect that came literally out of the blue: he’s been […]

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Boston artist DovBer Marchette wants to replicate his success in Italy with recognition at home.

Marchette has been a recognized and admired artist for decades, having exhibited and sold his works around the United States. Now, however, the artist is reaching levels of attention and respect that came literally out of the blue: he’s been discovered in Italy, and the Italians cannot get enough of him. He’s been tapped for not one but five artist exhibitions in three different cities in a span of just a few months.

“In many ways it’s unbelievable,” Marchette laughs. “I posted something about my work on LinkedIn, some Italian art people saw the post, and suddenly I’m having exhibition after exhibition in Italy. It’s remarkable.”

With his long, flowing white beard and moustache, Marchette doesn’t look the typical portrait of a post-contemporary artist. His work, which takes inspiration from Joan Miro and Henri Matisse, reflects his journey both in art and religion.

Marchette was working in Maine as a welder when his art career began to take off. A trained sculptor, he moved to Boston, where he joined the congregation of Rabbi Harold Kushner, famous for his renewal movement and his books, including When Bad Things Happen To Good People. Rabbi Kushner also commissioned Marchette to make a menorah; to make this, he welded steel and aluminum, which doesn’t form together, but he discovered that it could made possible by mixing bronze powder and resin. The menorah is still, there almost 50 years later.

Only good things happened to Marchette — he met and married the cantor of the temple, studied at the Art Institute of Boston, and developed what became a lifelong fascination with the greatest artist of the Jewish Bible, Betzalel.

“I began to study Torah with Rabbi Kushner,” Marchette recalls. “I started to learn about Betzalel, whom Moses commissioned to create the beautiful objects in the Tabernacle that accompanied the Israelites in the desert after they left Egypt. Thinking about Betzalel put me on a path toward creating art with religious themes.”

Marchette’s work looks nothing like what you might expect Biblical-inspired art to resemble. Marchette works in 3D assemblages of wood, paint, and objects he buys, finds or discovers around his house.

If you visit Marchette’s home in the Boston’s Brighton neighborhood, you will be surrounded by his larger-than-life pieces, some of which are more than four feet tall and wide and almost a foot deep. Think early 20th century work by Miro, Juan Gris, or even Picasso, meeting the themes of Marc Chagall, and you will have a sense of Marchette’s oeuvre.

Marchette considers miraculous his later-in-life rediscovery the Italians, and the acclaim he is receiving in that highly knowledgeable branch of the art world. Perhaps the greater miracle is the fact that Marchette is still with us today. More than 20 years ago, he was diagnosed with a neurological disorder that his doctors considered incurable.

“They gave me weeks to live,” he smiles, “but I’m still here.”

When Marchette isn’t creating his art, he is learning Talmud, four and a half hours a day at his synagogue, Congregation Chai Odom, also in Brighton. He is now on his second tour through the 24-volume compendium of Jewish law, practice, and culture.

“I couldn’t be more excited or surprised about what’s happening in Italy,” Marchette said. “In the Talmud, it says, ‘Ha’kol holaych achar ha-siyum,’ meaning ‘Everything depends on how things are completed, not how they begin.’ After 50 years as a sculptor and artist, it’s deeply satisfying to be ‘discovered for the first time’ overseers. I’d like to think that it’s only the beginning!” Perhaps we might refer to it as the beginning of a new beginning. One of the works he is known for, having returned to Boston, is a large twelve point start aligned to the roof of the Boston Common Garage, as well as a 900-foot rope bridge called the Vernacular, suspended between two high buildings downtown

The first of his five one-artist exhibitions in Italy took place earlier this year at the Gallery in Villa Shiff in Montignoso, the same town where Michelangelo did his first sculptures. The next shows will take place in Pisa, in November and December, Villa Shiff in Montignoso (where one of his paintings is part of the permanent collection), Villa Bottini in Lucca, Palazzo Del Governo Piazza- Duomo in Pistoa, and the fifth is scheduled for the month of Septemeber at the Gallery Sopra Le Gogga, in Pisa.

In addition there are more exhibits being planed in Amsterdam and Madrid.

Why do the Italians respond so powerfully to his work? Marchette theorizes that it has to do with his connection to art history and the evolution of the creative process of fine artists. In earlier times, the patron dictated the nature of artist’s work — whoever wrote the check drove the creative process. As the centuries progressed and art moved away from the patronage model, the artist’s own creative process rose to the fore.

“Every art movement in modern times represents an evolution of the artist’s process,” Marchette explains. “Unfortunately, today we live in a time when many artists operate in something of an ahistorical void. They don’t necessarily see themselves as a link to that evolution of the creative process. Instead, they just do whatever makes sense.

“That’s fine as far as it goes, but I think the reason the Italians are so enthusiastic about my work is that they recognize that it represents a link to that evolution of the creative process. I’m hoping that American curators and dealers will see the same thing about what I do that the Italians see.”

He was the artist in residence at the MFA in 1978. And then the Minister of Cultural affairs for the town of Sudbury in 1979.

He has two permanent sculptures in Sudbury, one is a menorah in front of the Temple Beth El which they have lit on Hanuka every year since it was installed in 1972.

And the other is a twelve foot tall steel sculpture called Guard at the Gate which was installed there in 1977 after being in a one man show at Boston City Hall in ’77.

The Rabbi was Lawrence Kushner famous for creating a renewal movement and well known speaker. He also commissioned Marchette to make a menorah which turned out to be a structural impossability but he discovered a way to make it work. He welded steel and aluminuim which doesn’t work but he discovered that it could be done by mixing bronze powder and resin and it worked and the menorah is still there almost 50 years later.

Now Rabbi Larry Kushner has become a succesfull painter in San Fransisco

This was the case in the beginning of his journey at attendance at chai odom but he had to go back to work when he was half way through the Talmud

This is the beginning of a new beginning to get rediscovered at home.

He was prominent for doing unique things including many well prominent temporary installations.

Including a large twelve point start off the roof of the Boston Common Garage and a 900 foot rope bridge called the Vernacular suspended between two of the tall buildings downtown.

The first of his five one-artist exhibitions in Italy took place earlier this year at the Gallery in Villa Shiff in Montignoso, the same town where Michelangelo did his first sculptures.  The next shows will take place in Pisa, in November and December, Villa Shiff in Montignoso (where one of his paintings is part of the permanent collection), Villa Bottini in Lucca, Palazzo Del Governo Piazza- Duomo in Pistoa, and the fifth is scheduled for the month of Septemeber at the Gallery Sopra Le Gogga, in Pisa.

 In addition there are more exhibits being planed in Amsterdam and Madrid.

Why do the Italians respond so powerfully to his work?  Marchette theorizes that it has to do with his connection to art history and the evolution of the creative process of fine artists.  In earlier times, the patron dictated the nature of artist’s work–whoever wrote the check drove the creative process.  As the centuries progressed and art moved away from the patronage model, the artist’s own creative process rose to the fore.

“Every art movement in modern times represents an evolution of the artist’s process,” Marchette explains.  “Unfortunately, today we live in a time when many artists operate in something of an ahistorical void.  They don’t necessarily see themselves as a link to that evolution of the creative process. Instead, they just do whatever makes sense. 

“That’s fine as far as it goes, but I think the reason the Italians are so enthusiastic about my work is that they recognize that it represents a link to that evolution of the creative process.  I’m hoping that American curators and dealers will see the same thing about what I do that the Italians see.”

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