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Twenty-eight handmade Gold Rush era miniature building replicas by local artist Tony Quattrociocchi, will be on display from Monday through Sept. 30 at the Sacramento International Airport’s Terminal B.
“Each piece was individually made, every brick, every shingle, and I found that really intriguing,” said Lorrie Kempf, Art in Public Places program assistant and gallery curator.
Quattrociocchi, 87, is no stranger to the Sacramento area. His miniature replicas have been featured in The Sacramento Bee, displayed at four libraries, Sunrise Mall and the State Fair, according to Quattrociocchi’s niece, Nancy Garrett.
“He used to take them to schools, and the kids really, really loved it,” Garrett said.
(Image by: Ilian Cervantes-Branum)
Mixed media models displayed at Terminal B include: “Fourth Ward Schoolhouse,” completed in 1974, “Young America” Paddle-Wheel Boat, 1977 and “Fort Ross,” 1983-2004.
“Everything is made from scratch,” Garrett said, “(including) the bricks that he used for Sutter’s Fort and the chimneys.”
Garrett explained that Quattrociocchi uses clay that he rolls and then scores to make each brick one 16th of an inch, which she said he then bakes in the oven.
The tiny bricks are “half the size of an eraser end,” Garrett said, and “he lays them out just like you would build a brick house.”
Quattrociocchi cuts and shapes glass for the miniature building windows and uses wood veneer to construct the window frames, using small precision tools like an exacto knife, Garrett said.
“I thought this was an exhibition that many of the travelers could really relate to because people have memories of traveling to these places, or have memories of the miniature buildings themselves,” said Kempf.
Quattrociocchi’s passion for creating miniature models of the gold country first began in 1974, after his wife, Dixie, asked him to replicate a building of the flower shop she worked in at the time to give as a gift to her coworkers, Garrett said.
After the gift for his wife’s coworkers and an antique shadow box he made for his son, Quattrociocchi* said he decided to make a miniature frontier town inspired by a drawing of a Wells Fargo Bank in Columbia.
Postcards and historic pictures were used as a reference to create the models, Quattrociocchi said.
To give an idea of the process for building the miniature replicas, Quattrociocchi said the steeple and roof for the replica of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, in Arlington, Va., took 9,000 tiny redwood shingles.
Sutter’s Fort took three years to complete and is the biggest piece of Quattrociocchi’s Gold Rush era-inspired models, of which he has completed 75, Garrett said.
(Image by: Ilian Cervantes-Branum)
The replicas’ construction takes “anywhere from one month to three years depending the on the size and detail,” Quattrociocchi said.
An old paddle-wheel steamboat called “Young America,” incorporates hairpins, an aluminum can and redwood as part of the building materials. That original boat used to sail the Sacramento River in the 1850s, Garrett said.
(Image by: Ilian Cervantes-Branum) Southern California ghost town of Bodie inspired many of the reproductions, said Quattrociocchi. Other buildings on display include The Eagle Theatre in Old Sacramento, The Old Columbia Firehouse and an Auburn Firehouse, Garrett said.
Kempf said she chose to exhibit Quattrociocchi’s miniature replicas after being contacted via email by Garrett. She was captivated by Quattrociocchi’s lifelong passion and also the painstaking work devoted to the creation process, Kempf said.
Four plexiglass cases house the tiny buildings and are displayed in the downstairs area of Terminal B. Six additional cases are available to ticketed passengers only, said Kempf.
Art in Public Places has been working with the Sacramento International Airport to display exhibitions for the past seven years, said Kempf.
“It brings back memories,” Quattrociocchi said about his work. “It makes people smile. It represents Sacramento in the old country.”
*Nancy Garrett, spoke in the interview for her uncle who suffers from macular degeneration, a medical condition that is causing him to lose his eyesight.
Editorial Note: A correction has been made to this story after it was published.