Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Italian Art-Immersion Adjourns

I could not leave Italy without declaring my intent to return. Angela promised a magical land and she delivered. The uniqueness of the light, the landscape, the art and the people (not to mention the food and wine) stole my heart. I am hooked!

Nepi was our last stop. We spent a long weekend in the ancient town that is located about 35 miles north of Rome. It has been inhabited since the 8th century, B.C. and the "old" part has a river on two sides, with an archaic wall built into the rock cliffs rising high above. A waterfall and the remains of a castle mark one entrance. A section of Roman aqueduct introduces another. We arrived after an easy drive from Monteleone Sabino, parked the car and walked along the narrow, cobbled streets, looking for our rental.

The address brought us to uneven steps that led down past several child-sized doors of wood, decaying in places and held together with padlocks and big bolts. Did people really live there? What kind of dwelling would we find behind "our" iron gate? Incredibly, we opened the door into an apartment with a modern kitchen, two bedrooms, two full baths, a living area with a fireplace and a view of the green valley beyond. Good work, Angela!

Up until then, I had felt relentlessly driven to make art. Suddenly, I realized that slowing down in order to actually experience the culture was a completely valid (and essential) part of the total art-immersion process. The buildings' colors and surfaces alone were mesmerizing. The custom of serving a spuntino, or snack, with every glass of wine was endearing. The cadence and song of the language were enchanting (despite my inability to understand it). And the Italian people were charming and warm. I relaxed. I drew a fountain. I watercolored from our terrace. We explored. I set up my easel on a path behind some homes and painted a view with a distant manor on bluffs. I breathed in the sweet smell of Spring and thought about what I had learned.

For one thing, it is very good to travel with another artist, especially one who has knowledge of the country and its language. Angela was an exceptional tour guide, but - more importantly - we shared the focus of making art. That goal informed our days in such a way that we took advantage of early evening light rather than eat just because it was dinner time. A second reward was the opportunity to experience how another artist works. Angela settles in and gives herself time to look in order to find out what interests her. She waits for her eye to tell her what to do. She works with the abstract shapes of any given subject so that her finished piece is as much about the relationship of those shapes, as about the subject itself. I love the idea of reaching past the landscape to the feelings it invokes in me. Now I'd like to combine that with a more measured approach, where I consciously consider the composition, apart from the scene. Explore the shapes. Be curious about the light. 

And so, my initial take-aways are artistic. I cannot wait to see how they impact my work at home. I imagine that this trip may also affect my lifestyle. Perhaps I will let my days flow, responding to what's around me rather than trying to force-fit expectations. Possibly, I will better weave art-making into the rhythm of living. Look. Paint. Relax. Then look some more.

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