The Wizard of Oz is Italian
The Wizard of Oz doesn’t let you take pictures. Looking around his close-shouldered toyscape of fragile wooden forms and clustered vintage artefacts, that was understandable. Besides, I already had enough photos from outside, Orvieto, back in normal Italy.
Out there, looking through a lens brings the whole world more into focus, reminding me to notice the textures of the quotidian, and aiding a more deliberate examination of our scrambling world. But in Il Mago’s workshop I didn’t need that precision, in his world I was better served by the flitting fancy of a childlike eye, overthrowing the diligence of inspection for the relaxation of entertainment.
Around, above, and behind me, colors clustered and shapes lurked in delicate extravagance. Art nouveau iconography lounged in evening wear behind nostalgic paraphernalia in pajamas, stained glass butterflies hovered above Betty Boop’s Route 66 diner, and a parade of metal giraffes and jugglers was on their eternal way to childhood’s circus. Hot air balloons drifted up among Spitfires and B-12 bombers held en route to battles uncountable. Cowboys and Indians with stagecoaches to match, while the flappers and mobsters surrounded stylish cars in a sudden sense of speakeasy jazz.
Such was the cacophonic harmony of an unexpected piece of this world, created by that man, who watched me from under alert eyebrows like foxholes. There was something of a residual frown on his face, until he saw the smile on mine. Then he approached, real casual like. Was there a wisp of the masked diffidence one might find in an unapologetic adult who was once a teased child? I couldn’t be sure.
“Let me know if you have any questions.” He offered, smooth but stern as old wood.
“Thank you,” I answered, and for a moment he watched while I gazed. “But truth be told, I’m not even sure what questions to ask.”
Maybe not all passion is easily shared, but the Mago’s is. His artisanal fingers pointed here and there as he explained that he finds some of the pieces by careful search through trusted sources, but that he makes most of them himself. That alone was impressive, in our modern age of Made in China stamps and supply chains redolent with karmic consequences that may last even longer than the plastic we buy and throw away.
My brain wanted to walk down those familiar penal paths of today’s dire adulthood, but from his basics beginning, “They come from me”, he quickly transcended to a more dreamlike place, where his various mottos, handpainted on slats of wood, were the rules of the game: “Make your reality like your dreams, and your dreams into your reality.”
Maybe it sounds better in Italian, but in that place, it made perfect sense to me. I was nodding to the notion, but that didn’t seem to be the reaction he was looking for. “Put your dreams into your reality,” he encouraged me, and swept his hand at the array of silent creations. I had weeks of tour-work still to go, and putting one of his pieces of art into a backpack would be empirical blasphemy, but it didn’t seem like a sales pitch.
“Reach out and touch your dreams!” He was enthusiastic, expectant, and I felt like I was failing a test. “Reach out! Touch the dreams!” Reach out and touch? Was there a button hidden among the delicate arms and fragile beams? Feeling lame, my finger reached out, unsure whether to go left or right, so plodded straight ahead until it landed, just for a moment, right on the…
(Oops, late for work. See you tomorrow.)