A Madcap Artistic Genius and Whimsical Soulmate
Todd Ramquist and wife Kiaralinda — the founders of the colorfully unique Safety Harbor Art and Music Center and owners of the Whimzeyland bowling ball house — have a kindred spirit in New Jersey: Ricky Boscarino.
The versatile and equally whimsical artist owns his own sprawling private home/studio-turned-landmark art installation, Luna Parc, and does nonprofit outreach on his property.
Boscarino will be in Tampa Bay area to give a SHAMc BOLDER Talk (described as a TEDTalk for artists) Friday evening and a cement sculpture workshop Saturday and Sunday.
Creative Pinellas got a chance to catch up with Boscarino before arriving to Safety Harbor. Boscarino travels to speaking engagements and sells artwork to fund his projects at Luna Parc, also home to the in-progress Museum of the New Alchemy located on the same wooded property in Montague, N.J.
Boscarino drives his pickup truck on road trips so he can collect things along the way to add to his ever-evolving found-object-cobbled mosaics, sculpture and collections. Right now he’s seeking mid-century plastic-molded furniture. The artist works nonstop, and his trips offer him his only leisure time. For this journey, he made a stop to canoe the Okefenokee Swamp.
The eclectic, multi-talented artist talked about growing up in suburban New Jersey, and developing a rebellious streak; he became more and more interested with the macabre and twisted, acquiring a madcap, mischievous sense of humor along the way, as well as a healthy appreciation of retro kitsch.
“Much of my work is a continuation of a childhood obsession of cataloging and labeling oddities and artifacts,” Boscarino shared during our phone conversation.
Because he hails from a long line of Italian carpenters, masons and other makers, creating things with his hands felt like a birthright. Ever curious, Boscarino had a childhood yen for science, assembling artifacts into unusual curations. He began with insects, rocks and minerals, meticulously placing them into jars and labeling them.
In addition to other divergent motivations, there’s an undeniable duality of sweetness and darkness in Boscarino’s work. There’s the bone chandelier created from cattle remains donated by a local farmer, and then there’s all the cartoony swirl and color of Luna Parc’s exterior. He explained that he operates from both the logical and creative hemispheres of his brain and yearns for projects that satisfy both.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, he spent years searching for a home. The property had to be secluded but inspiring, and when he saw the house in Montague, it was love at first sight.
This year will mark 30 years since finding and beginning work on his home. He’s never stopped working on it and never will. Because of his stealth genes bestowed by forebears who lived past 100, Boscarino thinks he’s got another 50 years in him.
His latest work at Luna Parc has revolved around his Museum of the New Alchemy, which will be walled with transparent display cases of with random objects such as taxidermy of dead animals gifted by his cats and those old Chinese slippers used to make women’s feet stop growing.
“I love the odd and weird and the slightly scary,” he said.
Before you think you can pin Boscarino down, there’s yet another side to the hardworking 57-year-old artist. He’s warm and affable, has an undeniably youthful way about him — an aspect revealed boldly at Luna Parc, named after those old amusement parks in the
Northeast. The property’s aesthetic has curiously complementary touches; fancifully vibrant fairytale curves and curly-cues with bric-a-brac decor and dreamlike flourish — think Pee-Wee Herman meets the Addams Family with a touch of Gaudi.
Making connections has always been a big part of Boscarino’s work. Over the years he had heard about Safety Harbor’s Todd and Kiaralinda through mutual friends and later discovered some seemingly cosmic coincidences between them — they each bought their homes the same year, and Boscarino was born 10 days apart from Kiaralinda. Over the past decade, they collaborated on projects. Boscarino even helped with the mirrored mosaic on SHAMc’s exterior.
“Yes, we are whimzey kindreds for sure,” Kiaralinda affirmed via Messenger.
For his two-day SHAMc workshop, Boscarino will impart his expertise on sculpting with ferro-cement. Participants can create a sculpture with reinforcing steel, iron or other metal combined with wiring plus traditional and modified concrete, to create a uniquely wonderful lamp post.
Before the workshop, Boscarino will give a talk about his work at Luna Parc, Friday night, Jan. 19, 6:30-7 p.m., and the Sculptural Concrete Workshop follows Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 20-21, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Cost is $10 per day to participate; advance registration is not required. Visit safetyharborartandmusiccenter.com for more details.