Wednesday, May 9, 2012

An Expat Free Art Show in Florence

    This beautiful photo of Florence's Ponte Santa Trinita at twilight is part of a local expatriate art show
American Contemporary Artists in Florence.
Few people know that the bridge was designed by Michelangelo.
The picture, by Christine Dickert, is on display with more photos, paintings, sculptures and small installations at the Palagio di Parte Guelfa (near the central post office close to Piazza Repubblica)
through May 11.

With visiting hours from 9 am - 6 pm, American Contemporary Artists in Florence 
is open to the public with free admission as it part of
the 2012 Amerigo & America program
in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the death of
Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci,
 who gave his name to two continents.
The resident artists are members of three groups based in Florence:  the American International League,the Network and the Young Anglo Women's Network.  Christine Dickert, who heads up the Young Anglo Women's Network, was exhibiting as part of a fourth participating organization,
the Healing Photo Art Foundation.

Also on display at the Palagio di Parte Guelfa, the above photos of the Tuscan countryside, were taken by Elaine Poggi, the founder of Healing Photo Art.  Elaine came to Florence with the intention of becoming a concert pianist, married, had a family, then created the Healing Photo Art Foundation to bring landscape photos by both amateur and professional photographers to hospital rooms both in Italy and the U.S.

On show at American Contemporary Artists in Florence is this
still life by AILO member Olivia Santiago.
 Olivia is a professional painter who specializes in drawings and paintings in the style of the Old Masters.  Immersed in the cultural and art world of Tuscany, she draws inspiration from the beauty of her surroundings.

The American-International League to which she belongs, is the oldest expatriate organization in Florence.  Founded in the 1975, AILO's main purpose is to raise money for charity projects, which the organization does in a spectacular way at the annual Dec. 8 Christmas bazaar.
Members of AILO come from all over the world, but the common (and official) language is English.

Speaking of Christmas, this work is from a former Network member Yvonne Di Palma,
who passed away last December.  A young Yvonne arrived in Florence from Philadelphia 30 years ago, eventually married a Neapolitan, and decided to recreate the magnificent 17th century Neapolitan tradition of il prespio (Nativity scene).  Yvonne went one step further, however.  She decided to use this art form as political commentary on current affairs, incorporating a myriad of scenes-within-a-scene with guest appearances by world leaders and politicians.

I don't know if the mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi knows that he is represented in Yvonne Di Palma's Nativity scene--but there he is, the figure to the left.  I also don't know who this Crudelia figure is to Renzi's right, but perhaps a reader of Beautiful Florence can help identify the person.
These photos were taken by faithful Beautiful Florence blog photographer Elke Schoolman.

This work, titled Philosophic Conversations with the Wind  is by Network member Alanna Dotson, a native of North Carolina.  In her own words, Alanna felt "done with the world of corporate America, took a trip to Tuscany, fell in love with culture and beauty here, and renewed my creative spark."  She teaches Mixed Media workshops and is currently writing and illustrating children's books.  The organization to which she belongs, Network,
is a social and professional organization founded in 1991 for native English speaking residents in Tuscany.  Its purpose is to foster communication and friendship, and to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and information.

AILO has regular monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of the month;  Network meets for a light potluck supper starting at 8 pm, followed by a a speaker at the Florence campus of Syracuse University the second Wednesday of the month; while the Young Anglo Women's Network (YAWN)  is a light-hearted crowd that meets over the Florentine tradition of aperitivo (cocktail hour featuring a buffet) starting at 7 pm generally on the third or fourth Thursday of the month.
YAWN member Hillary Scott, whose charcoal drawing is pictured above, was always passionate about drawing, painting and working with people with developmental disabilities.  After earning a degree in Art and Psychology from Ohio Wesleyan University, she came to Florence.    A new mom, who currently lives in Florence with her family, Hillary is looking forward to "reconnecting two loves:  drawing and working with people from under-served populations and communities."

This work is by Jamie Morris, who has lived in Florence for over 25 years after earning a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and an MFA from Kent State University, both in Painting and Drawing.
Says Jamie, "certainly living in Florence has had a huge impact on my art.  There is a synthesis between worlds happening on various levels;  a mixture of ideas, images, materials and techniques."
Her works are characterized by oil and water based paint, marble dust and exhibit elements of collage.

Above is a portrait in pastel by Barbara Maraventano, a long-time member
and past president of AILO.
She is originally from New York City.

The abstract work below, entitled "Measuring Space," is by AILO artist Sylvia Teri, who has participated in shows in the U.S., Italy, Austria, Spain and Korea.  Her work is inspired by a quote by Antonio Parronchi, "elaborations of planes and is dilated or again restrained...a sort of form-color...always harmonious in its pure chromatic timbre..."

Sylvia's piece and the beautiful quote reminded me why I added a show of the women's expatriate groups to the Amerigo & America program....out of pure love for the artist.
I was very lucky, having been recognized for writing at a very early age, so I recognize the importance of giving voice to
 artistic expression.

The youngest artist to exhibit at American Contemporary Artists in Florence is Sofia Nordgren from YAWN, who has lived here since September 2011.   Florence has inspired her paintings though its colors, flowers and nature as experience at the Cascine Park, Rose Garden and Fiesole.

Sofia's work to me is reminiscent of Georgia O'Keeffe.

Healing Photo Artist photographer Sara Amrhein also exhibited as a YAWN member with some of her jewelry.  A third generation (half) Italian-American, her artistic work consists of painting, sculpture, drawing, photography and jewelry design.

"I believe the message of the Renaissance masters was not to continue repeating the same ideas and methods but rather to continue pushing forward and to create the new and unexpected and to challenged the perception of what art is," says Sara.

Inaugurating the American Contemporary Artists in Florence show was U.S. Consul General Sarah Morrison.  To her left is Robert Shackelford, secretary of AACUPI, American College and University Programs in Italy secretary and one of the members of the Amerigo & America committee.  Robbie introduced all the artists participating.  To the right of the Consul General is your Beautiful Florence blogger, head of the Amerigo & America committee whose program will be presented officially in two weeks.  To the right of Rosanna is Andrea Poggi, who collaborates with his mother Elaine Poggi on the  Healing Photo Art Foundation
that Elaine founded and heads.

I so happy to finally meet the artists who filled in the frame of American Contemporary Art in Florence--I had made this request before the exhibition but somehow it never happened.
Thanks also to American contemporary artist Alanna Dotson of Network who took the photo.

Those familiar with the Beautiful Florence blog know my love for flowers and nature.  So, I would like to end with what Tuscany looks like at the beginning of May:  poppies in bloom--quite a difference from the opening photo in the previous post
A Light in the Darkness:  Kate Brooks.

This lyrical painting is by AILO member Lolita Valderrama Savage, who also trained at Florence's Fine Arts Academy under Professor Silvio Loffredo.  She spends part of the year painting in Tuscany, and her works can be found in private collections and in exhibitions in the U.S.A.

This is the scene in the fields just outside of Beautiful Florence
right now.


  1. Great article, Rosanna! It sums up the whole exhibition. Thanks for your help and enthusiasm for this event!


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