After graduating from Syracuse University, where he focused on illustration, Martorana had what might best be called a conversion experience while studying in Italy, and he switched to sculpture.

"I feel like I am still an illustrator," the Virginia native said, "I am just doing it in three dimensions."

He went on to earn a master's degree in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he still teaches.

Martorana works on his own projects in the back corner of Hilgartner Natural Stone, surrounded by enormous machines and workmen cutting huge slabs of stone with wet saws. It is a successful symbiosis. He does the artistic restoration the company is asked to do, and there are machines and manpower for his own projects that he would never have on his own.

His is a dusty world, covered in white. Around him is the statuary he helps repair. Angels and saints are ghostly clients, waiting for him to restore a hand or a crucifix broken in a storm. Outside in the summer heat, pieces of stone are stacked everywhere, upright, like plates in a dish drainer. You can find the steps he has rescued out there, too.

At this moment, he is finishing his latest creative project. He is carving a portion of one of the marble steps he rescued. He is shaping it into a concrete block — the dreaded replacement material of his beloved steps.

"Once they are gone, the city will never get them back."

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

Sebastian Martorana

Sebastian Martorana, a sculptor and illustrator, grew up in Manassas, Va., and received his BFA in illustration from Syracuse University. He also studied sculpture there and during a semester in Italy. After graduating, he became a full-time apprentice in a stone shop outside Washington restoring memorials before coming to Baltimore to earn his MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art's Rinehart School of Sculpture.

Martorana founded Atlantic Custom Carving LLC. His current studio is part of the stonecutter shop at Hilgartner Natural Stone Co. in South Baltimore, where he works on commission carving and restoring stone, as well as his own sculptures. He is also an adjunct professor in the Illustration department at MICA.

If you go

"40 under 40: Craft Futures" features 40 artists born since 1972, the year the host gallery established its decorative arts program, and offers examples of the evolving notion of "craft" within traditional media, such as ceramics and metalwork, sculpture, industrial design, installation art, fashion and even mathematics. The exhibit is open through Feb. 3 at Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street N.W. Admission is free. For details, go to americanart.si.edu/renwick/

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