Newport News’s outdoor art gallery is growing, with another dozen projects in various stages of development. Two will become realities very soon:

The almost complete Man and Crocodile, at Bottega Versiliese in Pietrasanta, Italy.

A bigger-than-life man — and the crocodile strapped to his back — will tell their stories in Newport News Park. Around the sculpture will be two crocodile sculpture benches for park visitors to rest and take in the sculpture. Like much of Girolamo Ciulla’s work, they draw their stories from ancient mythology, in this case from Egypt. One version of the story places the crocodile as intermediary between the human and the divine— even transporting people to the afterlife (in some cases, as their massive jaws and teeth claimed victims along the Nile).

Even viewers who are not familiar with the mythology will find this narrative, figurative piece interesting. It’s natural to try to figure out what story it’s telling, an effort that will cause viewers to pause, look closely, think about the piece, and engage with it. In the extensive outreach materials that we will develop, we will invite viewers to make up their own story, an activity families can enjoy together.

Born in Sicily, Ciulla began to exhibit at the age of 17. In his early 30’s he was drawn, as so many artists are, to Pietrasanta, the Italian village where sculpture has been a dominant industry since the Middle Ages. He still lives and works there today, but his following is worldwide.

The roster of Ciulla’s exhibitions is extensive, and recent entries include shows in Paris, Florence, Seoul, Alabama, Venice, Rome and London and in the Biennale in Venice. Large-scale works have been installed in churches and public sites in France, Japan, Italy, South Korea, Egypt and Kenya. The commission by the Newport News Public Art Foundation is his first in the United States.

Artist Emanuele De Reggi and Chairman Bobby Freeman discuss plans to put a work of public art in the waters of the City Center Fountain. Photograph by Jonathon Gruenke of the Daily Press.

City Center Fountain

We are in the beginning stages of planning a sculpture project for the fountain in City Center. A long-range project still in the development phase, we are working with artist Emanuele De Reggi on the concept of multiple boats of different sizes that appear to float on the surface of the water. As the project develops we will provide updates here and on our Facebook page.