HEATHER FRANCI — Special to Southern News
Their expressions never change and they continue to tell the same stories that they have always told. They stand 4 to 5 feet tall and wear colorful costumes that help tell their stories.
These are the Sicilian puppets that are on display at the Stony Creek Theater in Branford, but there is no need to drive far to view them up close.
There is a new art exhibit on display at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts. The photographs on display were taken by Joseph Cifferelli, a Southern alumnus.
The display extends from wall to wall with photographs that capture each puppet’s expression and the craftsmanship of Sebastiano Zappala, the creator of these puppets.
David Starkey, the associate director of the Lyman Center and gallery manager said he thinks the exhibit is a suitable match for the school.
“I thought this exhibit would be a fairly good fit with a performing arts center and I like the connection with Joseph Cifferelli being alumni of this institution,” said Starkey. “One thing I am trying to push with this gallery is to try to give local artists a place to show their work.”
Cifferelli majored in art education and graduated from Southern in 1972. While attending Southern, he worked in the Ralph Earl Gallery as well as drew cartoons for Southern News.
He currently owns and operates Cifferelli Studios on Willow Street in New Haven. He said in his studio he spends most of his time picture framing.
“I do have a sense of pride when my framing work helps an artist have a great show. The art world has once again changed with the digital revolution,” said Cifferelli. He has been active in the studio since college graduation.
Cifferelli said he has had some favorite projects he has worked on which have been some highlights in his career. In 1978 he had an exhibit of sculptures in New York City.
He also designed graphics for the White House celebrating the birthday of the Declaration of Independence when President Ronald Reagan was in office. He drew an illustration which resides in the Submarine Museum in Groton titled “The Turtle.” Cifferelli framed a portrait which hangs in the Pope’s residence.
He has also done a lot of sports photography of past and future sports stars.
One of his favorite projects was when he was silk screening T-shirts which led him to merchandising them at rock concerts.
He recalled a surreal moment at a Rolling Stones concert in 1981 at Veterans’ Stadium.
“A manager took me into a room with stacks of money neatly piled on a desk and said that’s what $1 million looks like, you may never see that again. He was right,” said Cifferelli with a laugh as he reminisced.
Maryssa Feigenblat, a senior liberal arts major, said she likes the new exhibit at the Lyman Center.
“I like that there is factual information that explains some of the photos. It lets you know what you are observing,” Feigenblat said. “I think that they are a very artistic way to tell the puppet’s story.”