Tuesday, December 6, 2011
On the final Wednesday of our Italian semester, we had an amazing celebration. Knowing that their American guests would be missing their traditional Thanksgiving dinner at home, the Vasta family and their staff made us our very own party filled with food, drinks, entertainment, speeches, and art. It was such a great way to wrap up the semester. Having had our critique, we selected and displayed our favorite pieces of artwork for the Gala dinner that evening. Friends of the Vasta family and other locals joined us to have a feast consisting of an entire plate of appetizers, a plate of pasta, a33lb turkey, stuffing, eggplant, green beans, mushrooms, rolls, pickled onions, potatoes, and to top it off, a layered chocolate cake for dessert. Water, wine, and homemade sangria were available for us to drink with our dinner. Local art figures spoke about our artwork, and we handed out gifts and thank yous to the wonderful people at the villa that made us feel so much at home. Once most of the visiting guests left, the students watched a Thees production. This picture slide show triggered the reminiscent feelings that would only continue to grow after leaving the villa. What an amazing night!
As graduation and the “real world” approached faster and faster, I jumped at the opportunity to continue my studies for an additional semester and complete my remaining credits in Italy. Previous art history courses provided me with a glimpse of the inspiration to come, yet nothing could fully prepare me for the opportunities I’ve had thus far. I immediately began experiencing the rich culture through art, history, architecture, music, theatre, dance, and fashion among other wonderful elements the culture has to offer. The amount of inspiration has completely exceeded my expectations and continues to satisfy my artistic impulse. Since this trip began, I have both consciously and subconsciously become more aware of my surroundings, observing shadows and highlights, designs and patterns, curvatures and rigidities. I have been particularly fond of and drawn to the Etruscan culture. Depictions such as owls, vines, leaves, fish, waves, organic shapes, and other ornate designs make nature’s influence on the culture apparent. Such pieces of art intrigue me by being both mentally stimulating and visually appealing.
I will soon be making some very important decisions about my future that will be essential to my continued happiness, and I find this pivotal point extremely daunting. In the previous section of this trip, using Etruscan art as my inspiration, I created a drawing that symbolized this moment in my life. However, the drawing was much less successful than I had envisioned, and compelled me to make a second attempt; this time being more intentional, dedicating more time, and being less concerned with the viewer’s perception of the end result. I’ve learned that the printmaking process is extremely demanding as it requires much precision, diligence, and carefulness. But, the muscle cramps, neck aches, and blistered fingers have made the end result that much more rewarding. I am much more pleased with my second attempt and feel that the imagery effectively displays my source of inspiration and symbolic intentions.
My linoleum plate
My multi-colored prints
After the drawing portion of our trip came to an end, it was time to pack up and travel outside the villa for the following week. The Pope was coming to Perugia and the Vasta family had guests that were already lined up to stay at the villa. Although we had known about the break week from the start of our trip, it wasn’t until the week before that most of us finalized our travel plans. Thanks to Ben Sherman, we were able to reserve two rooms that were within steps of the ocean. On Friday around noon Roberto took a group of ten of us to the Perugia airport where we flew with Ryanair to the beautiful island of Sardinia (Sardegna in the local tongue). For several of us, this was our first experience with the airline. The flights are extremely cheap, but this being said, is an indication that they make their money some other way. Checking a bag is extremely costly forcing most passengers to bring only a single carry-on. In order to make sure the carry-on luggage is small enough, the airline has designed a metal “if it fits” bin that determines whether or not get on the plane without checking your bag. While we were standing in line, a woman tried a number of times to get her suitcase into the bin. People were shouting for her to try different angles, turning the suitcase on its side, and finally she succeeded. But, her suitcase fit so snug, that she then had to spend several more minutes trying to get it out of the bin, and without any help or even the slightest bit of recognition from the Ryanair staff. (She was photographed many times and received quite the round of applause once her suitcase was removed.) Seeing this caused a few of us (mainly Ellen) to reconsider our packing methods. Thankfully, backpacks were not examined as closely, even though a number were just as large as some roll-a-way suitcases. Following quite some time of being herded like cattle, we made it onto the plane. The flight attendants paced back and forth down the isles for the duration of our flight promoting items to purchase from their catalog. In contrast to the typical beverages and snacks we are used to on most airlines, Ryanair flight attendants instead race up and down the isles in an attempt to sell things like jewelry, and bottles of liquor among other things. I was pretty groggy so I dosed in and out during the flight, only waking up to an extremely abrupt landing paired with a celebration tune letting us know we had safely and promplty arrived in Cagliari, Sardegna. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcR9EQ_jfhw&feature=related
Trust me, if you ever fly Ryanair, use this website to prepare: http://thesavvybackpacker.com/675/ryanair-survival-guide-tips-for-flying-ryanair/
Monday, December 5, 2011
Before venturing to Italy, I had made a list of things I wanted to do. Little did I know that two would be fulfilled with little expense and much more convenience than I had expected. For the first time ever, the villa hosted the annual belly dancing festival. “Belly Fusion” attracts belly dancers and spectators from all over the world to gather for a celebration of this traditional form of dance. The festival included a fashion show, performances by several group and solo dancers, a fortune teller, and belly dancing apparel. Regardless of whether you are familiar with belly dancing or not, this event was quite an experience and one that I quite enjoyed. Especially since we had only been working in 2-d art, it was nice to see other forms of art outside painting and drawing. The music was loud and the costumes exceptionally striking and detailed. One of my favorite performances of the night was an interpretive dancer who captivated the audience by personifying a cat, and in another performance, the ocean’s turbulence. She was an amazing dancer with very unique and interesting performances. Another attention-grabbing dancer, Roxy Rose put on quite the burlesque performance. To our surprise, she stayed true to the sensual nature of burlesque and then some, removing all of her clothes down to a thong and matching nipple covers. Her exact age was difficult to determine yet we could tell that she was older than most of the other performers, but nevertheless was beaming with confidence I can only hope to have at her age. Talk about a cultural experience!
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Later on in the trip we made it to Assisi for the second time; this time to see first-hand Rossella’s art performance called the “Table of Silence.” This show includes several dancers, musicians, and Rossella’s hand made ceramic plates all combined in a performance that intends to promote peace, offering and tribute. The dancers wore entirely white costumes, moved in varied formations, and though they were engaging in the same movements, they were able to complete them in different orders. Toward the end, the ceramic plates made by Rossella, were removed out of the back pockets of the dancers and held up as a gesture of offering. This was an incredible event to witness, and also an opportunity for us to catch a glimpse of the passion Rossella has for art, more so, the attempt to influence or trigger thought to take place when meaning has been assigned to images. The villa, owned by Rossella’s parents Michele and Bebe, is filled with artwork that she created throughout her lifetime. These pieces were a visible display of her progression and development as an artist. Her work had an extreme transformation in terms of content, materials, and especially her process and methodology.
Now that art history was finished, we switched our full attention to our three drawing assignments: creating a personal mythology, a landscape, and a free piece. I began drawing a piece that I had originally gained inspiration for when I went to New York City two years ago. Walking anywhere in that city was a challenge. I remember it being similar to playing a game of “chicken.” You see a person standing directly in front of you and you have a few short seconds to determine who is going to divert around the other. Upon the first few days I did not stand a chance and was darting and dodging people left and right. By the end however, I had a bit of a new confidence and more of an understanding for how the traffic works. It’s honestly quite fascinating how so many hurried people can maneuver an extremely crammed area and still end up getting where they need to go in a somewhat timely manner. You quickly get over the idea of having your own personal space and instead learn to cooperate with those around you. If this task isn’t difficult enough as it is, try it on a rainy day when all five thousand people on the same street as you have an umbrella the size of a restaurant awning. Now people are not only concerned about bumping into one another, but now they have to avoid getting it caught on scaffolding, traffic signs, other peoples hair, head, eyes or any other body parts for that matter, and getting stuck half in and half out on the subway. This process seemed all too symbolic of the point I was at in my life. Not quite sure of myself, trying to steer clear of danger and set backs, and just hoping to reach the other side of the street safely not knowing what to expect once I got there. But even so, I didn’t feel alone, because I had my best friend standing right next to me the whole time, feeling exactly the same feelings, and with the same goal in mind. In Italy, this was again the case. I began drawing two females walking side by side, arms linked, and each with an umbrella in hand. The figures were easy to develop since I know them both so well. Once I finished charcoaling the females, I knew that they could not remain floating in white space; however, I wasn’t very concerned with the imagery in the background and drew in an Italian street setting with poor linear perspective and much lighter details. Looking back, the scenery didn’t matter to me, the location could be interchanged, and new elements could be included. I have realized that what matters most in this piece is that the two females display a bond, a connection, a shared desire and ambition to achieve a common goal, a dependency and at the same time enough independence and confidence not only in each other but in one that develops within themselves when they are together. It wasn’t until we hung our artwork up for the second time that I was able to come up with a fitting title for this particular piece. I usually hate choosing titles for my artwork and end up assigning a random and pointless name to my piece at the last second. But for one of the first times, I find that the title adds another dimension, an element that is missing without that slight bit of information. My title is “Directionally Challenged.” This sums up several aspects of my life especially at this point in time. I often have a difficult time navigating my way through a new city, portraying depth or linear perspective in my art, and choosing a future path. Directionally challenged is an understatement.