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Karen Hansen's Impressions about Art lab in Italy organized by Academia Luciano and LarkGallery16 days in Civitella D'Agliano, a tiny medieval town, located 50 miles north of Rome.
I immersed myself in this glorious classic Italian atmosphere.
Originally Civitella d’Agliano was built as a lookout and the huge watch tower still stands on the piazza, although after a restoration in about 1970 it’s only 300 feet tall, about 2/3 its original height. The town was one of three strategically located high on hilltops within the Tiber River valley. All those centuries ago, when the region contained a papal court, the residents of the valley were defending the river. Whoever controlled the Tiber controlled the entire vast area. From the watch tower, the whole valley could be surveyed.
These days the Old Town is largely abandoned. Of the 1600 Civitella residents, only 46 live within the Old Town, along with a zillion feral cats. At one end of the piazza there is a beautiful large Catholic church where mass is held daily at 5:30 for the 8 residents who attend. The remaining empty buildings throughout the town became our homes and studio spaces for our 16 day stay. Our group ultimately numbered 24 artists from 11 countries, 5 continents. The artists ranged from ages 19 to 70. They worked in all styles and all media, including performance art.
Our time there was so much less complicated than my life in Los Angeles. Siestas are a part of the local culture and, of course, I complied. We slept when we were tired, ate when we got hungry and during the rest of our time we were free to paint and explore. Everyone’s stress melted away. My days usually began just before dawn, about 5 am, waking up to the cooing of doves and roosters crowing. The morning light was pure Italian, just like J M W Turner experienced. Before breakfast I would wander around the Old Town with my camera and shoot photos of the beautiful crumbly architecture, the sweeping views of the river valley and even a few of the cats. After about an hour I’d come home to eat breakfast and then head off to our studio to paint. The studios were located in a building that we were told was once a palace, altho it wasn’t opulent at all!
Throughout our stay, Italy experienced record breaking hot weather with the temperatures hovering around 100º each day and nights cooling only to the mid 70’s, not enough to cool the buildings. We had no air conditioning or fans so the siesta time was a way to cope with the oppressive midday heat. And after sundown the piazza was a gathering place for the locals to enjoy the cooler evenings. It was wonderful to listen to them chatter. Italian is such a lyrical language. It was really too hot to cook so lunches and dinners were usually salads giving me the opportunity to explore unfamiliar kinds of olives and cheeses. I found the yogurt, fruits and veg bursting with flavor! And of course gelato. My favorite flavor was called Egg Cream. Tomatoes, peaches, plums, melons, and watermelon were like nothing I can remember tasting. I realized the huge sacrifice we Americans make as a result of our mass food production.
Along with investigating every crevice of Civitella including their 3 restaurants and 2 markets, we briefly toured the area, visited 2 sculpture gardens, made a quick trip to Florence (and hiked to the top of the Duomo - all 463 steps!), and headed to a nearby beach one day only to arrive the moment a thunderstorm hit. Some of us were featured in a film being made by a local winery. And I connected with some very interesting artists, including the woman who was my roommate and studio mate. She lives in Culver City, CA. She was full of fascinating stories, having grown up in Siberia. And she produced 165 beautiful drawings during our residency, truly an inspiration to work beside.
I painted 9 paintings during my residency including the one pictured left called Ode to a Moth. Near the end of our stay we had an exhibition of the work we’d created. The exhibition coincided with a 3 day wine festival, an annual event that draws people to Civitella from all over Italy. The piazza was filled with food, wine and visitors as local musicians entertained the crowds late into the night.
At the end of our residency I packed up all but two of my paintings. The two I left behind had been selected by Christian Hamsea, our organizer, as part of the residency specifications. I headed back to Los Angeles happy to be home again but very grateful for another rich residency experience! There are even plans to show the work we left behind in Rome in 2016 at the Romanian Cultural Center next to the Borghese Gardens!
from this summer Art Lab in Civitella D'Agliano by Linda Kunik
In the article used images by Linda Kunik and Lark Pilinsky
Friday, July 24
Farmer’s Market Day and the 1st day of the wine festival. Being an aficionada, I’m ready to taste all the wonderful wines. They’re also setting up a site for a band. Music, yay!
It’s a little past 8 pm. Cool outside. I better bring a shawl. And wear flat shoes. I don’t want to trip on the cobblestones! I meet Donna and we buy a booklet of tickets for the wine tasting. 15 euros for 15 glasses of wine. The festival lasts three days, right? I need enough tickets. I walk over to the Mottura Winery to view the video that we were in. I didn’t expect to see close-ups of any of us--just group shots. Well, there was one group shot from afar. Then a close-up of Sergio talking about the vineyards. Who do you see right behind him? Me. Two great close-ups of me listening to Sergio explain the cultivation of grapes. What fun! I’m a 5-second star in Italy!
We sit down at one of the tables in the main piazza and order the chicken dinner. Libbet, Regine, Karen and Lisa join us. First course--farro and bread spread with pesto, and another bread covered with a delicious tomato spread. Second course—pasta with a very spicy tomato sauce. I loved it! The best thing on the menu, although no one else shared my opinion. Too spicy, they said. Third course—Horrible! Just horrible! Dried out, fried chicken parts (all the worst parts, even the neck, yuck)with fried potatoes. The potatoes were good. All the Italians seemed to love it. I guess it’s an Italian specialty that we just don’t have a taste for. During dinner, a 3-piece band, playing American blues begins. We danced and danced. Larissa asked me to join her on the dance floor. What a free spirit! We had a blast! I sat down with the band after they finished playing, about midnight. Since I don’t speak fluent Italian, we conversed in Italian, some French and some Spanish. I was a Spanish teacher and studied French for 10 years. We talked and drank (they kept bringing over new bottles of wine to taste, especially white sparkllng wine). Time for bed. What a great day!
Saturday, July 25
I am so tired. I went to the Insomnia Café for a café latte, went back to the apartment and made myself some eggs and tomato with pesto and olive oil and went back to bed for 2 hours. It will be a rest day for me. I walked up to the studios and they are quiet, too. Everyone apparently had too good a time last night. And we have our opening exhibition tonight, starting at 7 p.m. We spent Friday afternoon, hanging our work and we are all ready. Will anyone come from the festival? I hope so.
There was work hung in the fortress tower also,. Another exhibition, not ours. Libbet, Larissa, Donna and I decided to investigate. We climbed to the top of the tower. You actually had to crawl up the last steps and squeeze through because part of the hatch was closed. What a view from up there. Absolutely worth the 120+ steps it took to get there.
At 7 p.m. we gathered at the fortress. We walked across the piazza to one of the oldest buildings in the piazza, where Christian spoke and gave out diplomas to each of us for our residency. Then back to the studios where one by one we briefly talked about our work or our experience here in Civitella. Of course, when it was my turn, I got all choked up and started to get teary-eyed. Oh well. Then we all enjoyed a cold glass of Prosecco provided by Academia Luciana.
Back to the Piazza. Had a glass of white wine (have to use up those tickets). I gave two tickets away. 15 turned out to be way too many tickets. Libbet and I decided to walk to La Quercia for steak. No more chicken dinners, thank you. We had a wonderful dinner of steak and steamed spinach and a huge glass of the house red. Walked back to the piazza and I was about to leave when Alexandra and Sergio invited Lena, Libbet, Larissa and myself to visit the underground cellars where the wine is aged and stored. Sergio explained the process of making his sparkling chardonnay, as he calls it. The bottles were covered with a white, fuzzy mold. Fascinating! Time to head back to my apartment. Can’t believe tomorrow is Sunday! It’s almost time to go home.
Sunday, July 26
Woke up at 8:30. There was loud music in the streets till 3 or 4 a.m. I bought breakfast (lattes, croissants, orange juice) for Miriam, Larissa, Lisa and myself at the Insomnia Café.
In the studio now. Maybe more work? Maybe. I’ll look over what I have. I worked on one piece and changed it. The brown, Indian red and yellow ochre one. I took off the glued part. It’s better now.
Dinner tonight at La Quercia - seafood night. Antipasto, risotto with shrimp, pizza with a sparkling white wine. We (Miriam & I) gathered euros together to buy dinner for Christian, Sergio, Ursula and Larissa. They were very pleased. I even made a little card from one of my watercolor pieces that everyone signed. Sergio was particularly moved. It was a good night.
Monday, July 27
Our last day here. How can it be? When a trip starts it seems like you have all the time in the world, and then, before you know it, it’s the last day. Sad, but all things must come to an end as they say. It was a great experience here. A charming little city, friendly people, beautiful red, yellow and gold sunsets, great fresh produce that tantalized the taste buds, amazing crisp delicious white wine, lots of new friends and in my case, a whole new body of work that I’m really excited about. Can’t wait to get home to start working really large.
Since everyone had to clean out their refrigerators before they left, I suggested we have a potluck dinner in the fortress. I wanted to have it outside on the 3rd floor of the fortress, where we had our other events, but it wasn’t available. They were still cleaning up from the wine festival, so we settled for the 2nd floor where I had my studio space. I decided to make pasta with tomato sauce and pesto and sautéed vegetables again. Some people said they didn’t want to cook. So I suggested they bring some fruit, dessert or a bottle of wine. Well, some people did buy something, but most went all out. Emilio made a mouth-watering chocolate cake, Libbet made her beet, walnut and mozzarella salad and Christian made this amazing pasta dish--tagliatelle, truffles and bacon. Mmm mm good. And of course, we had plenty of wine and beer. Miriam suggested we use the pink striped sheet again as a tablecloth and it made the table look much more festive. Many said it was the best night ever. Everyone knew everyone, the food was great, lots of wine and beer and it was informal--you could move around and talk to everyone. Great way to end our stay in Civitella!
Tuesday, July 28
Up at 5 so we could leave at 5:30. Dragging my suitcases and large cardboard box with paper and art supplies. How will I get it all back? Carts at the airport, that’s how. By 5:30 we are on our way. It’s still dark. 2 hours to Rome. Hard to believe I’m going home. No more traveling-----until the next time!
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