David Giese has traveled in time. After 40 years of teaching — 36 at the University of Idaho — the man who creates ancient Roman ruins and discovers mythical monuments has finally decided to retire.“It’s time to retire when you overhear your students having a conversation and you don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” said Giese who plans to travel to Rome during its off-season.
Giese claims to have discovered the remains of the fictitious Villa Bitricci, art pieces he created in the 1980s, while traveling in Northern Italy.
“I just thought of this kind of reconstructed version of history,” he said. “Because I tell these stories and incorporate real events, but I kind of twist them around so there’s a sense of humor about them.”
In Giese’s story, Villa Bitricci is the longest continuous private residence in Western civilization, where famous citizens and artists reside. Giese said the name, Villa Bitricci, came about when Dante’s mistress, Beatrice, was accused by an overzealous priest of being a witch and a harlot. She then fled Florence and sought sanctuary in the villa.
“And from that time forward it has always been called the Villa Bitricci,” Giese explained. “Bitricci is an endearment for Beatrice in the town.”
The pieces of Bitricci are composed of concrete, paint, flotage and mixed media. Giese said he usually starts by casting a flat, which takes two people. With the more recent help of his assistant, Noah Kroese, they create a wooden frame, staple on a propylene fiber, pour an expandable foam on the back of an open-mesh work and then stand on pieces of plywood wrapped in plastic.
“And so the foam expands and it creates the thickness, the depth of it, but it makes it quite lightweight. All of this decoration is kind of cast individually and then collaged onto the surface,” said Giese, who can create 10 pieces a year.
A one-person retrospective of Giese’s work is on display at the Prichard Art Gallery in downtown Moscow through Sunday.
“It covers quite an expansive range,” Kroese said. “People will be not only be blown away on the work itself, but the evolution of the work over the years.”
Kroese said the volume of Giese’s work is astounding as well, because of its quality.
“He’s been making art regularly the entire time he’s been at the University,” he said. “You’re looking at a history of history. I’ve never seen work like David’s anywhere else.”
A reception will conclude the Prichard Art Gallery retrospective 5-8 p.m. Friday, while a retirement soirée will take place 8-11 p.m. Saturday in the UI SUB Ballroom.
While Giese said he’s well known for throwing great parties — such as the dinner parties he’s hosted in his Italian-inspired home of 15 years — the UI celebration may be the biggest this year.
“This year I haven’t done as much because I’ve been so focused on this endowment and ready to retire and all that,” he said.
As a retirement gift to the university, Giese created an endowed fellowship to support the costs of bringing visiting artists to campus to work with classes.
“The only criteria is the individual’s work must be interdisciplinary by nature,” he said.
The soirée will host live and silent auctions on Giese’s bowling shoes, glasses, hand-made and salvaged office furniture and a T-shirt that reads, “Is there life after Giese?” Four pieces of his office artwork will be raffled for $20 per ticket. A video will feature past students and faculty members, who submitted video, pictures or anecdotes for the event. Wine and beer will be served and a separate room is available for dancing.
“As impressive as David’s work is, he’s such an individual and he was such a dynamic personality,” Kroese said. “He is just as impressive as his work.”
Despite his retirement, Giese will keep a studio on the UI campus.
“I consider myself extremely fortunate that I’ve loved my job and I think I feel really privileged to be part of a very important, critical phase in an individual’s life when you’re really dealing with the true formation of who you are,” Giese said. “And I take that responsibility very seriously.”
If you go:
WHAT: Gallery reception; Retirement soirée
WHEN: 5-8 p.m. Friday; 8-11 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Prichard Art Gallery; University of Idaho SUB Ballroom
COST: All admissions are free.