The cover of Anthony Caponi’s memoir “Voice from the mountains”
89 year-old sculptor Anthony Caponi, the founder of Caponi Art Park, has lived a life rich in both art and experience. Born in an Italian mountain village, Caponi immigrated as a teenager with his family to the United States, where he suffered all the struggle and wonder involved in making a new home. But just as soon as he started to feel at ease, he was enlisted in the army to fight in World War II, and was sent back to Italy, this time as “the enemy.”
Caponi’s memoir, “Voice from the Mountains” – reprinted this month in paperback – reads like a lyric poem, starting with his childhood in which he describes how it was the surrounding mountains that carved him into the man he has become, and continuing on to describe how he was torn by his love for two countries:
My home, on two continents,
My soul, tossing in mid-ocean,
My body, carried by the tides,
Landed ashore on the native soil.
On a ledge between two worlds,
Where plants lose their roots,
Where the sea discards its dead,
I stood on no-man’s land
Between my double sorrows
Of leaving an dreturning.
A son, I departed,
Tripping sideways with each “Addio.”
A soldier, I returned,
Transformed and reassembled
Into an army of thousands,
As an interchangeable segment
Of an armored millipede walking on many legs.
Caponi’s memoir is remarkable on several fronts. First, in that it gives readers a window into the heart of a new immigrant, his love of “America” mixed in with all the frustrations and judgement he endured. Secondly, it lends both an artistic and philosophical voice to the horror of war, as experienced by a soldier. Finally, to read Caponi’s account of his experience in war-time, both witnessing and suffering atrocities of all sorts, makes his life’s work after the war that much more impressive.
Returning to the United States, Caponi came to Minnesota in 1946 to study at the Walker Art Center School and later at the University of Minnesota where he earned his Masters in Education. In 1949 he settled in Eagan, and worked for more than fourty years to realize his dream: a large outdoor sculpture park where anyone could walk and reflect on the natural beauty of the world alongside the art it inspires. Creative expression, Caponi believes, is an integral part of the well-being of both the individual and the community. Caponi writes:
My work with stone is not so much a choice as it is a realization of what I am, philosophically and physically. In this age of planned obsolescence, fickle ideals and cellophane expressions, I find it most appropriate that my sculptures should be of durable, resisting, elemental materials, as stone and steel. I want to wrestle with my work and caress it into its final form. I want to release my pent-up energy through hammer and chisel and the sweat of my body, until my spirit finds its calm, my mind its order and the work will have recorded in tangible forms the process of transforming frustration into a wholesome, satisfying expression.
Anthony Caponi’s 60-acre art park, located in Eagan, is open to the public for visits May through October, six days a week. It is home also to theater and music performances. Caponi’s memoir “Voice from the Mountains” was reprinted by Nodin Press. The memoir was originally published in 2002.