(Mara Lavitt — New Haven Register) February 27, 2014 Derby Albanian-born Vasil Rakaj of Ansonia, in his Derby studio at the Valley Center for the Arts, has been commissioned to create a bronze memorial sculpture of Ded Coku, an Albanian patriot, for installation in Albania.
DERBY >> An Ansonia artist who is a native of Albania is creating a sculpture that honors the memory of a patriot from his homeland.
For the past several weeks, Vasil Rakaj has been painstakingly working on a 5-foot clay sculpture of longtime Albanian political leader Ded Coku. He was hailed as a hero and was assassinated in 1945 at age 75 by communist dictators.
Rakaj is working on the sculpture in a studio in the Valley Center of the Arts in Derby, which is run by the Valley Arts Council.
When the work is completed, Rakaj said, he will make a plaster cast of it. He will cut the plaster cast into pieces and ship it later this year to a foundry in Albania, where it will be cast in bronze.
Rakaj is working from several photos of Coku, seen dressed in a traditional ethnic costume.
The sculpture will be mounted on a stone pedestal, he said, and erected outdoors in the northern city of Lezha, Albania, where Coku served as mayor for 32 years.
Rakaj said Coku owned a big farm and employed many people. “A lot of people respect him.”
Rakaj said Lezha has beautiful architecture, and the sculpture will be placed “in the middle of the city.”
The current mayor of Lezha, Viktor Tuska, asked Rakaj to create the sculpture.
“I change many times how the sculpture looks, (to decide) which form is better or which modeling is good,” said Rakaj, who has lived in the United States since 1998.
He is using oil-based clay on the piece. He said it’s easier to use than water-based clay because he doesn’t need to spray the sculpture with water. “It’s ready all the time because it’s oil-based,” Rakaj said.
He will use 800 pounds of clay by the time he finishes the work.
Rakaj is a member of the Valley Arts Council. Rich DiCarlo, Valley Arts Council president, has been watching the progression of the artwork.
He said Rakaj “has captured the romanticism behind the hero” with the sculpture. “You don’t see this kind of sculpture around,” DiCarlo said. “Most of the statues you see are stoic.”
DiCarlo said the features Rakaj has sculpted depict “a proud face.” He said Rakaj “has a pride for his native country and it shows in the craftsmanship.”
Have questions, feedback or ideas about our news coverage? Connect directly with the editors of the New Haven Register at AskTheRegister.com.