Late 2015 marked a time of change, freedom, release. By the end of the year, dust settled from several unexpected life shifts and I was ready to grab life by the … you get my point. Last year, I felt charged – hungry to explore and learn. I began writing my goals on little post-its and sticking them to the inside of my closet so that, when I dressed each morning, the hot pink pieces of paper would act as motivators. Pink bursts of positivity. One post-it read “2+ week sabbatical to work on my art“. I began speaking outwardly about my creative goal, looking for places to stay in regions like West Texas, New Mexico or the Atlantic NE. As long as I was learning and creating, I was open to what the “sabbatical” or time away looked like. The more I opened up about it, the more suggestions I got. And a beautiful offer fell into my lap.
I was accepted into an artist residency in Terni, Italy. SCORE. For over two weeks, I was away from Austin, working alongside a group of talented and passionate women, focusing on printmaking and exploration.
My lack of knowledge of anything Italian (aside from a deep love for pasta, cheese & wine), plus the fact that I hadn’t practiced printmaking regularly since 2001, was the combo that excited me most. It was an open field. No expectations. My plan was to go and be and make (and eat).
I flew to Rome for some quick site-seeing before attending a two-week printmaking workshop at La Romita School of Art, located in the hills above Terni in central Italy. The workshop was taught by Katherine Brimberry (Co-Founder, Director & Master Printer of Flatbed Press) and Susan Davidoff (accomplished Artist based in the Chihuahuan desert of west Texas).
La Romita was once a monk’s monastery established in 1548 (so dreamy!). It remained an active monastery until the early 19th century after the monks left, when the grandparents of signora Amina Quargnali purchased it as the family’s summer home and farm. Some of the olive trees at La Romita are still living it up at over 300 years old! La Romita School of Art first opened in the mid-1960s, under the guidance of Enza Quargnali. For 50+ years, artists have stayed at La Romita, painting and writing in the beautiful Umbrian hill country, “whose radiant golden light has charmed artists since the days of Perugino and his famous pupil, Rafael”. Much of the original structures remain intact, including the Chapel-Studio.
Our small group spent the majority of our time focusing on individual work or exploring Umbria and Tuscany. During the residency, I focused on my “Undercurrents” figure series. Getting my hands dirty in a different, but familiar, medium released some new ideas. I crept into a direction to further explore. Initially, it was intimidating to work alongside some of these artists who are grounded in their lifelong creative career, women with years of experience. It was energizing and humbling. More than a few times I wished my mother, also an artist, was there to experience and create. I quickly settled in and absorbed as much as possible, valuing each moment. I am nuts about the printmaking process and have a lot to learn. My dreams at night were lively and intense, my subconscious working hard to digest everything. It is rare for an artist to be given sustained time and space to create. I was in heaven.
We visited over 14 towns and historic locations and spent no less than 5 hours a day in the studio or press room: “Italian Intensive”. Below is a slideshow of artwork and various moments. Flatbed Press will be having an exhibition of our work next Spring, including some pieces created in Italy. I will also have a few prints hanging in my studio during EAST this coming November. I value my companionship with these creative people from around the globe and look forward to staying connected.
Thank you to everyone at La Romita for your warm hosting, to Kathy & Suzi for your knowledge and encouragement, to Mike for your support, to Momzie & Dad for being you. And to Italy, for lighting my fire.