Art Goes Over Like Load of Bricks

For a Connecticut artist, that's a good thing

DERBY, Conn. -- A brick isn't usually thought of as a canvas, but don't tell that to Rich DiCarlo.

For years, the artist has been carving images onto brick faces. He can carve anything from a cat with wings, to a dragon or even a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He can make Mickey Mantle come to life as he swings for the fences in his New York Yankee pinstripes.
"It's unusual and heavy, but it's quite unique and fun," said DiCarlo, 46, who heads the Valley Arts Council. "It's my curse. That's my canvas. The brick is my canvas."
For nearly two decades, DiCarlo has worked with brick faces, chipping into them to make some memorable artistry.
DiCarlo's foray with bricks started innocently in 1989 in his native New York City. While working at an art gallery, DiCarlo had been asked to get some bricks to serve as a pedestal for a sculpture. Some Japanese tourists said they wanted the plain-faced bricks so they could take a piece of New York home with them.
DiCarlo later realized that he could chisel the brick faces and create shapes on them. The first brick carving he ever made was of your everyday cockroach.
"It was originally a brown bug, but then we spiced him up. He's very ornate now," DiCarlo said, adding he painted the bug to look more appealing.

Over the years, he's crafted several New York City symbols, such as taxicabs and the Empire State Building. He has made more than 1,400 pieces, selling most of them.
Prices for the sculptures range from $35 to $300.

He continues his craft today, when he's not working at the Derby Parking Authority.

The time spent on each brick depends on what will be chiseled, DiCarlo explained. While the brick face can be rough through the early chipping, he uses special clay made from brick dust to smooth out his creations before painting and displaying them.
One creation, "Horace the Dragon," was made using five bricks.

"I fused it with wooden dowels and gorilla glue. That stuff holds like you wouldn't believe," he said.
Sports fans have been pleased with his baseball-theme bricks. He's created bricks with Yankees legends Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris as well as current star shortstop Derek Jeter.

But he's also balanced his art to appeal to fans of the Boston Red Sox, incorporating historic Fenway Park, legendary Sox slugger Ted Williams and former Red Sox star Manny Ramirez into some recent cuttings.
"Manny is touring the East Coast right now," DiCarlo said, noting that a friend is showcasing the Manny brick at art shows outside the area.

Fellow artist Steve DiRienzo, vice president of the Valley Arts Council, purchased a Mickey Mantle brick for Christmas as a gift for his brother, a huge fan of the Mick.

"It went over like you wouldn't believe," DiRienzo said. "He loved it. He loved the craftsmanship. It's a different take on sculpture."
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