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“My sculptures are like a prayer to overcome daily difficulties.”

“My sculptures are like a prayer to overcome daily difficulties.”

Carving tools – screwdrivers, chisels and hammers – by Antonio Guerra, a 61-year-old artist from Calolciocorte, It is like the alphabet of a mysterious language, through curves and edges giving shape to a world of emotions. Working with different materials – such as wood, stone, marble and metal – is a way to get to the roots of yourself and bring out your best side. But sometimes, as Antonio explains, something special is born from these simple actions: they turn into a prayer, they become a bridge between earth and heaven, a thread of love that gives strength to face illness and everyday difficulties.

Thirty years ago the tumor

It has been more than thirty years since he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a malignant tumor of the lymphatic system. “It was just before my first daughter was born – she recalls – when I started experiencing some symptoms, which I initially attributed to fatigue. I went to the doctor and after a series of tests, a few days before Christmas, they told me it was cancer, stage 2. I asked how long I had left to live: according to the oncologist, from three to six months. Today he can say it with a calm look and the awareness that he has already lived through fear and pain: “I did not ask God to heal, but only to be able to embrace my daughter Ana Maria at least once.”

The baby was born in the short period between radiotherapy and chemotherapy: “After the first sessions, which were very difficult, because the illness required it, I asked the doctors to give me a few days before the more invasive session began, because the birth was imminent and I wanted to have enough energy to be by her side. My wife, Stefania.

His wish came true, and he was able to hold his newborn daughter in his arms, “a moment of joy and intense emotion.” This is what gave him the incentive to continue treatment: “It took some time before I noticed the first improvement. Over the years, I underwent many operations, and it was not easy, but I never gave up. My faith sustained me, and I entrusted myself to God. The beauty of being a Christian lies in realizing the constant feeling of love. Even in the most difficult moments, when I had to carry my cross, this gave me strength.” He did not recover, but he found a way to live with the illness. He had another daughter, Michela, and continued his life fully, where art holds an important place, as a tool of knowledge and resilience: “How many “Things about ourselves that we do not know, how many things we can find to support us.”

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If dealing with cancer has tested him, By making simple daily actions such as eating and breathing more difficult, she also pushed him to develop his patience and coping skills, and in any case she could not deprive him of a smile: “A few years ago they introduced Peg (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy), so I have to feed myself through a probe, using a machine that I'm stuck in for a few hours a day. I'm the one who imagines the dishes on my menu, because I can no longer taste them. However, that doesn't mean I let myself get discouraged. “I'm happy, I'm here with my family and I don't miss anything.”

He wakes up every morning at five o'clock, “when it's still dark” to pray the morning praise, enjoying the silence of the house, his dog Maja lying at his feet, while everyone else is still asleep. He pauses to contemplate the dawning, the wonder of the pink light passing through the windowpanes, and then, with the energy this moment gives him, he prepares breakfast for the whole family: “This is our joyful moment: it is so nice to be together. Then everyone starts their day.”

As long as his health permitted, he worked as a pattern maker in a foundry: “My employers were good-hearted people, not only with me, but with all the employees, and they always showed me the utmost readiness.”

In a few days, he will become a grandfather: his eldest daughter Anamaria's pregnancy has ended, and he is impatiently awaiting the first grandchild. For Antonio, family is the cornerstone around which everything else revolves. Over time, she strengthened relations of friendship and mutual assistance that also extended to neighbors: “We even opened an additional door in the gate to shorten the path between our houses through the gardens.”

He was passionate about sports, and continued to devote himself to skiing and climbing as much as he could: “When I was young, I was also involved in competitive activities,” he recalls with a smile. There are still many activities to which Antonio devotes himself with passion and generosity, always in the service of others and society. He is an exceptional minister of the Eucharist and is diligently involved in his parish, which to him is like an extended family.

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Volunteering with children

A few years ago, he was leading a workshop as a volunteer with some young people attending a psychiatric center in the area, supporting them on their journey of knowledge and self-awareness: “There is also someone who does not sculpt – he explains – but just comes to chat. I try to offer them listening and serenity. Now one of my students is ready to become a teacher himself, he gives afternoon lessons to other young people. “I am very proud of him and the other members of the group, who participate with enthusiasm and commitment.”

Introducing young people to sculpture requires time and patience, as Antonio explains, and we must progress gradually: “The first step is always made of wood, as it was for me. We start using different essences, ranging from soft scents like pine, which are highly appreciated in Alto Adige, to harder woods like walnut or olive.” Then, little by little, you can move on to stone and marble, which require a lot of attention: “Hammer “The chisels are noisy. The stone cannot be cut like butter. It requires strength. The tools require care and manual dexterity and are risky. You must use adequate protection and equipment and proceed with caution. But it is an activity that gives a lot of satisfaction.”

He was self-taught, starting at an early age, and showed a spontaneous talent: “When I was ten years old I carved wood with a small knife. I was inspired by nature and the animals I saw around me, or the characters in the stories I heard from my parents. Then, as I got older, I started to be interested in dynamic shapes like fire and female figures. I tried to use different materials, from wood to stone and even marble, and sometimes I chose specific color veins, such as those in the golden stone.”

Antonio's works have won him the admiration of many fans, who often met him through word of mouth. Some of them went abroad and made sculptures of a public nature. Among them, for example, is A Certain Nativity, an iron work dating from 1995, designed specifically for the Temple of Santa Maria del Lavello, a place very dear to the artist. Hence the Embrace, which can be clearly seen in Vercurago Square, and the Dna – Spiral of Life, created in 2016 to support the Telethon.

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Moments of life in business

In the catalog of his works – which he presents modestly – we can read many important moments of his life: The birth of his daughters Annamaria and Michaela, the love for his wife Stefania, the unity of his family, faith, but also friendship, amazement in the face of nature and life, the feeling of mystery, and the rush towards heaven. He has a special attraction to light and fire, which is expressed in soft shapes that “never stay still.”

His art workshop is now housed in a tool shed in one corner of the garden. Small, simple and very tidy space, tools are hung on the wall according to a precise logic, in a practical way, and accessories are labeled and placed in drawers. The work he is working on is a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, barely visible in the trunk of a car.

He keeps in the rooms of his house the works that are dear to him, and with which he has an affectionate relationship, such as pictures of his daughters and his wife. Where special care appears, in the softness of soft forms, are some small sculptures created for specific occasions, but also some works of other artist friends, which accompany him on the path of memories.

“Before I sculpt a sacred work,” he says, “I often gather in prayer, asking not to discredit my work.” Often the lines of the face do not appear in his sculptures: “It is the movements, the bodies that speak, that express the feelings. There are many ways in which shapes can speak, and through my artistic research I began to walk down this path.”

If Antonio sometimes writes prayers that feel like poems and feed his journey of faith, sculpture allows him to “make thought three-dimensional.” As happens, for example, in the sculpture “Awakening”, the first created at the end of chemotherapy, where one can read hope and openness to life, as at the beginning of a new spring. It often represents hope and life with feminine features. “Art – Antonio continues – expresses the joy of life. Working on a sculpture produces a deep state of serenity within me, giving new energy to life. It is a gift for which I thank God and place it at His service, because even through art one can realize and contribute to the realization of his project of beauty and love.