It was “love at first sight” for Michael V. Pascucci when, after leaving the service in the early ’70s, he took a college sculpture class.

From there he went to a technical school to learn how to cast metal and weld, then on to a Masters to truly perfect his newfound love.

A full-time sculptor now, his show, Michael V. Pascucci: Sculpture, runs through July 2 at the Noyes Arts Garage in Atlantic City.

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Prior to his full-blown art career, Pascucci had the unique position as lead sculptor for the Franklin Mint, where he would frequently see his creations in Parade Magazine every Sunday. But that business, he admits, has certainly slowed down in recent years.

“You don’t see too much of it (Franklin Mint items) anymore. The giftware — figurines, cutesy things — has kind of died out. In the ’70s and ’80s, our parents’ generation collected those. I don’t think it’s translated to the next generation.”

Hired by an Asian manufacturer in the 1990s to develop gift ideas for them, he became bent on going out on his own with his art. So he did just that.

It didn’t work out.

At least, not at first.

“For a number of years I had to take a detour from being a full-time artist and had to take a job to support my family,” he explains. “But I’m back to sculpture — which is great.”

Great, for sure, as his stunning and intricate work has garnered him awards and recognition throughout the region and beyond for this Monroe Township artist who works in bronze and steel, but prefers walnut because “it’s a lot of fun.”

“Walnut is a rich wood, and has a lot of beauty to it. It’s a hard wood, but it’s not hard to carve, you have to know the grain, so it’s fun playing with different grains and following the grain and creating different shapes. And when it’s finished, it gives you a nice rich, dark color.”

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Michael V. Pascucci desires to get a response — any response — from a viewer. The sculpture on left is titled ‘Jocasta’s Desire VI,’ named after the mother/wife of Oedipus. And it is clear that, while not true human forms, below, one can see two people embracing in this piece, aptly titled ‘Embrace.’

There is a common theme in Pascucci’s work, one that reflects humanity and the human figure.

“I like to create what I think is a visual metaphor about the human psyche or form,” Pascucci says. “Each piece is a metaphor in its own way. There are two steel pieces and there’s a tension with each piece — a rigid structure and a piece of steel woven in and out among the vertical elements. When I was doing that, I thought how we maintain our composure in life and may be feeling all sorts of tension on the inside that you don’t see.”

Busy as he is, frequently working on several projects at once, Pascucci needs to get into a certain mindset and “work a little each day to advance the procedure.” He doesn’t mind, though, as working through each sculpture is a delight.

“A lot of the real joy comes in the process. You work out an idea and you might sketch it out, do a clay model ... you’re looking to put shapes and forms together that evoke a response from someone,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be a ‘eureka’ response, it could be very subtle. As long as there’s something in it that penetrates the viewer and they walk with something.”

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