LYNN NEARY, host:
Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in four years. Paco Rosic is on track to finish his own version of the famous fresco in just four months. Half the size of the original, Rosic's recreation of the Michelangelo masterpiece is on the ceiling of a building in downtown Waterloo, Iowa. And Rosic is doing it all with spray paint.
Paco Rosic joins us now from KUNI in Cedar Falls, Iowa. So good to have you with us.
Mr. PACO ROSIC (Artist): Thank you.
NEARY: Now, I wanted to ask you - you were known locally, as I understand it, as a graffiti artist. What made you want to take on this kind of amazing project?
Mr. ROSIC: Actually, I never was a graffiti artist, so I used the can. So people get confused and think graffiti, but I'm aerosol artist.
NEARY: You're an aerosol artist.
Mr. ROSIC: Yeah. This has anything to do with graffiti. It's all in aerosol.
NEARY: So how did you go about doing this? Did you have to go find a building that you could use?
Mr. ROSIC: I was looking for building last four years, because it was tough to find the perfect ceiling. But finally I got the opportunity to get this building I have right now. And my parents invest all the savings and took a second mortgage on their house. And I'm happy my parents did it for me. It's big for me. This was my dream since I was age of six, to paint Sistine Chapel.
NEARY: Wait a second. You were six years old when you decided you wanted to paint the Sistine Chapel? How did you get that idea?
Mr. ROSIC: Because my mom, she was into the always art. She was reading books about Picasso, Leonardo and Michelangelo. I remember this day, was age of six and she opened a book and explained to me about Michelangelo. My whole life flashed before my eyes. I'm like, oh my gosh. And I had to do it. Something was telling me I had to paint the Sistine Chapel.
NEARY: Now, of course Michelangelo painted the entire Sistine Chapel ceiling on his back. Are you doing the same thing?
Mr. ROSIC: I did half of the ceiling on my back and then the half I was standing.
NEARY: Is it difficult painting on your back?
Mr. ROSIC: Yeah. Beginning it was - I was going through major pain. I couldn't even eat at night for several weeks. My girlfriend had to feed me with a fork. It was major pain, my left arm.
Mr. ROSIC: My back, my neck. Yup.
NEARY: But you kept doing it.
Mr. ROSIC: Yeah, I can, because I was getting treatments, acupuncture.
NEARY: Wow. So did this give you some insight into what Michelangelo had to go through to do...
Mr. ROSIC: Yeah, it did. I was thinking, oh my gosh, what he'd been through, actually happened 500 years ago, and plus, he didn't have no electricity, you know, and just like - wow.
NEARY: Did you visit the Sistine Chapel before you began?
Mr. ROSIC: Yes, I did. I spend there four days, and that was enough for me. And then - but before I went to Rome, actually, I was studying from the books and reading, and just to learn his style.
NEARY: The fresco in the Sistine Chapel, of course, has lasted for a very, very long time. How long do you expect your own painting will last, or the building that it's in?
Mr. ROSIC: I don't know, actually. I put double lead actually with the Krylon. Can last, I don't know, for a long time, maybe 100 years.
NEARY: Oh, 100 years. And how much paint have you actually used? Like how many cans of paint might you use on an average day?
Mr. ROSIC: Depends. It's close to 5,000, maybe more now, altogether.
NEARY: Altogether you've 5,000?
Mr. ROSIC: Yeah. Maybe a little bit more, 5,200. I have to go through my (unintelligible) so I can count. 'Cause I keep all those empty cans.
NEARY: You've kept them all?
Mr. ROSIC: Yes.
NEARY: Are you allowing people to come in now and watch as you create this?
Mr. ROSIC: Not anymore. I just like lock all my doors and I won't let anybody in. I had too many distractions, so I lost my zone, my focus. I admit all the media and people coming and just like - they say it's bad for art when you lose your zone. So now I just try to get my zone back so I can finish it.
NEARY: Thanks for being with us today, Paco.
Mr. ROSIC: Thank you.
NEARY: Paco Rosic is an Iowa artist who just finished painting a half-scale replica of the Sistine Chapel ceiling using spray paint.
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