Newport News’s outdoor art gallery is growing, with more projects in various stages of development. One will become a reality 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.