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Articles by: Sara Krevoy

  • Art & Culture

    ReSignifications Revisited at NYU Casa Italiana

    Showcased at NYU’s campus in Florence and curated by Associate Professor Awam Amkpa, the initial ReSignifications exhibition links classical and popular representations of African bodies in European art, culture, and history. Using a collection of works by 47 contemporary artists from Africa, Europe, North and South America, and the Caribbean, ReSignifications engages in a dialogue between past and present, using artistic conventions as a communication point.

    The Original Exhibit

    "NYU’s campus at Villa La Pietra is the ideal backdrop for international discourse on imagining the black body, in part because of the ‘Blackamoors,’ but also because African diaspora is very much at the forefront of debate here in Italy and across Europe,” said Ellyn Toscano, Executive Director of NYU Florence and Executive Producer of the ReSignifications exhibit. “The conference and exhibition provide a rich opportunity to deconstruct, compare, and contextualize the myriad portrayals of the black body in Western societies from multidisciplinary angles.”

    The term ‘Blackamoors’ refers to exoticized figures used decoratively throughout Europe dating back to the Early Modern Period (1500–1800), which portrayed African bodies (typically male) in various forms of servitude. Depicting figures such as domestic servants, courtier, soldiers and priests, ‘Blackamoors’ were created in the form of sculptures, jewelry and sometimes furniture.

    ReSignifications confronts these models as a starting point for an exhibition which combines styles in representing African bodies across time and place, speaking to the connected histories of Europe, Africa and the African Diasporas.

    ReSignifications at Casa Italiana

    The current exhibition presents works by two of the artists from the original ReSignifications exhibit: Lyle Ashton Harris and Deborah Willis. The artists collaborated to create a harmonious exhibit customized for the Casa Italiana space in downtown NYC. With this exhibition Casa Italiana and its director Stefano Albertini, confirm once again the important mission of the cultural institution: to spread a light on crucial topics and themes that need to be blazoned forth. “We believe that in the current political climate, it is necessary to take on important topics such as colonial history, racism, immigration, and their reflection in the arts, as is the case with the historical use of Black bodies in the figures known as Blackamoors”

    Meet the the Artists

    Deborah Willis, Ph.D, is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural, Africana Studies, where she teaches courses on Photography & Imaging, iconicity, and cultural histories visualizing the black body, women, and gender. Her research examines photography’s multifaceted histories, visual culture, the photographic history of Slavery and Emancipation; contemporary women photographers and beauty. She received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and was a Richard D. Cohen Fellow in African and African American Art, Hutchins Center, Harvard University; a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, and an Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. Fellow. She has pursued a dual professional career as an art photographer and as one of the nation's leading historians of African American photography and curator of African American culture.

    For more than two decades Lyle Ashton Harris (born 1965, New York) has cultivated a diverse artistic practice ranging from photographic media, collage, installation and performance. His work explores intersections between the personal and the political, examining the impact of ethnicity, gender and desire on the contemporary social and cultural dynamic. Known for his self-portraits and use of pop culture icons (such as Billie Holiday and Michael Jackson), Harris teases the viewers’ perceptions and expectations, resignifying cultural cursor and recalibrating the familiar with the extraordinary. Harris has exhibited work widely, including at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York) and The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York) among many others, as well as at international biennials (São Paulo, 2016; Busan, 2008; Venice, 2007; Seville, 2006; Gwangju, 2000). His work is represented in the permanent collections of major museums, most recently The Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2014 Harris joined the Board of Trustees of the American Academy in Rome and was recipient of the David C. Driskell Prize by the High Museum of Art (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.). In 2016 he was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and was appointed a trustee of the Tiffany Foundation. Having studied at Wesleyan University, the California Institute of the Arts, and the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program, Harris is currently an Associate Professor of Art and Art Education at New York University.

     

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    The exhibition is open Monday through Friday from 10am until 5pm.

    For more info visit the Casa Italiana website here>>

     

                        

     

  • Art & Culture

    Caimi's 'Jumps' on Display in SF

    Recently showcased at the Ducal Palace in Sabbioneta, the exhibition is called Jump, reflecting a theme of the physical thrust that embodies a metaphor for Man’s aspiration towards awareness and transcendence of human nature.  

    Curated by art critic and professor Giammarco Puntelli, the display features 15 large, black and white paintings depicting human forms in the act of jumping. With this collection, Caimi offers viewers an opportunity of self-reflection in the beauty of the figures on canvas. The jumping motion intends to represent the “temporal passing and moral evolution of Man surrendering to his destiny.” 

    About the Artist:

    Silvia Caimi, born in Mantua, is an internationally acclaimed fine artist. Graduating with a degree in Literature from the University of Bologna, Caimi deepened her studies of Byzantine, medieval and modern art. She was then selected to take part in a prestigious masters program in economics at the University of Languages and Communication Sciences IULM in Milan.  

    The artist has participated in numerous national and international exhibitions, and has been the recipient of awards such as the medal of the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano. Her work was selected by major critics to represent Italian painting abroad, in cities such as London, Miami and New York.  

    Caimi has always dedicated herself to painting, a passion and natural talent that has since evolved into a rigorous, artistic methodology focusing particularly on the human body. Her artistic research is strongly influenced by classical studies, notably the Neoplatonic school of thought, which believes that forms and phenomena are the imitation of a universal something that is larger and more simple than any other entity. The themes explored in Caimi’s exhibition Jump can be connected to this centuries-old philosophy.

    Jump will be on view at the Institute until March 9, 2018. To learn more about the exhibition opening click here >>

     

  • Little Chefs - Learning Italian and how to make Tiramisu at Speakitaly
    Life & People

    Feeding Speakitaly's Promising Future

    Sometimes, determination can be even more powerful than a dream. Such is the case for Raffaella Galliani, whose full energy and tenacity have driven her across an ocean from Italy to New York, where she is currently a successful entrepreneur.  

    Galliani is the founder and proprietor of Speakitaly NYC, an intimate Italian language school headquartered in Chelsea. Using a program based largely on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), Galliani’s teaching method incorporates immersive and experiential methods which play on the individual interests of her students. She often uses games and music to capture their attention. 

    “I want to be associated, surely, with something fun and high energy. I want you to learn but I want you to love it,” the language teacher explained.

    Finding Her Way: 

    Though Galliani has been teaching for many years, building her own language school in the US was not always her plan. The seeds leading to Speakitaly’s creation were planted long before it was ever a conscious thought. And the path to building the business is one that demonstrates the power in the  law of attraction- what you put into the universe is often what you get back.

    Galliani was in New York on a three-month visa when she ran into the man who would eventually become her husband at the annual Halloween Parade in the Village. She wasn’t planning to stay in the US, but she couldn’t deny the desire to remain in NYC and give her budding relationship a chance.

    It was then that Galliani was asked to temporarily fill in at a language school. It was her first time teaching at a school, but she enjoyed the experience. So did the students, so Galliani was asked back to teach on a more regular basis. After two months, the school sponsored her for an internship.

    She stayed for a year and half, at which point circumstances seemed to indicate that returning to Italy for a fresh start was the right choice. In Italy, Galliani strengthened her foundation in teaching, becoming certified at the University of Perugia and teaching Italian for foreigners in Milan.

    Three years passed, but the man Galliani left behind in NY was still in her heart. Meanwhile, she had made the decision to move to Rome and teach Italian. She had an apartment and everything, but at the last minute Galliani felt compelled to travel to the US once again. Her intentions were to close the door of the past but instead she fell in love again.

    Galliani then knew she needed to find a way to stay in NY and be with the man she would marry four years later. She contacted the school she worked before she left for Italy, and they accepted her back. They also sponsored Galliani for a working visa.  

    “I just have a lot of will to makes things happen, and that’s what I feel has always paid back in my life,” said Galliani. And it is this assertive drive that she used to construct Speakitaly from the ground up.

    As Galliani continued teaching Italian, she accumulated a wealth of students attracted by her dynamic energy and exciting teaching style. She soon realized that traveling around the city each day for private lessons was too taxing, and she needed a central office of her own.

    Galliani eventually found a space in Chelsea. She didn’t know how she was going to find the money for rent, but she signed a year-long lease for the office, and Speakitaly was born. Ever since, the language school has been thriving on the time and love that Galliani infused into its conception. She taught herself how to make a website, how to advertise and how to use social media to her advantage. As a result of her efforts, Speakitaly NYC became a success, and Galliani enjoys a future with the love of her life.  

    “I have many people who are happy, and that’s what makes me happy. That’s what is most important, to see someone start from zero, and then be able to say a few words, and then they become more and more independent. È una soddisfazione (It’s a satisfaction), it just makes you happy. That’s why you do it.”

    Full Stomachs, Lasting Memories:

    In less than a year, has grown from one-on-one learning to include small classes of about four students. Galliani was also able to hire another teacher to work with classes two days a week. She is looking to incorporate another teacher on staff, so that she can focus on the latest addition to Speakitaly’s repertoire– working with children.    

    Galliani has recently began teaching cooking classes for kids, using her husbands space prepare treats like ravioli, pizza and tiramisu. The classes are more of a cultural endeavor, but the goal is to begin teaching them Italian language in the near future.

    For adults, Galliani has long been forging bridges between cuisine and country. She organizes pasta-making workshops, after which students are given recipes to bring home alongside their fresh pasta so they can share what they learned with family and friends. Galliani also coordinates popular wine tastings, bringing her pupils to restaurants that specialize in food from a specific region. The meal consists of four different wines, paired with four regional dishes.

    “I am not a promoter of dialects,” she revealed. “But I do love regions, because they have their identity, and their food, and their way of being part of a bigger picture.”

    Galliani has noticed that, especially in NYC, people have a fascination for all things Italian–one that is easily susceptible to misconception. Through these culture-centric activities, the language teacher hopes to expand students’ horizons when it comes to Italy. “The biggest connection for me was to make sure that Italy was not only a plate of ragu bolognese,” she said. “I mean I love it, but that’s not what it’s about.”      

    And for Galliani, who grew up helping her mother and grandmother prepare Sunday dinner, sharing food with her students holds an even greater significance. It means passing down traditions and creating positive memories that last a lifetime.

    “It was something that I learned, and I treasure those moments that nobody will ever give me back,” she mused, tearing up. “And what I do with the kids, I think, well they’re not gonna remember me, but in their heart they will have something cool, and maybe they will pass it.”

    Looking Toward the Future:

    In the coming months, Galliani is looking to expand class sizes to nearly 7 or 8 students. Gradually, Speakitaly NYC aims to acquire revenue for advertising and generate more traffic for the program.

    Galliani’s dream is to one day open a school in Milan or Rome, where she can send students from the US to enhance their language skills through crucial on-the-ground experience. In fact, it was a combination of adventurous spirit and a desire to communicate with people outside of her own community that brought her fluency in three languages in addition to her native Italian: English, French, and Spanish.

    Training one’s brain to communicate in foreign language also allows a student to access alternate versions of oneself, according to Galliani. “And that’s the beauty of it,” she said. “You can always be, not somebody else, but maybe someone who is closer to you in another thought, in another world...another you.”

    To accomplish one’s goals takes dedication, patience and heart–all qualities which Galliani expresses to the fullest extent, embodying them into the driving force behind her language school.

    “The degrees you have count. But I really think that what shows to people and what you get back in life, is truly who you are. And what you want to give to the world.”

    Even with her growing business, Galliani still works around 12 to 13 hours daily. “Every day when I finish at 9pm, and I close the door of that tiny little space,” she said with a full heart, “I think: ‘I’m proud.’”

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    For more info check out the Speakitaly website here >>

  • Art & Culture

    Iom Romì (A Day in Rome) debuts for an American Audience

    The festival is a yearly partnership of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Jewish Museum in presenting films from around the world that explore the diversity of the Jewish experience. The 2018 anniversary included films from South Africa, Denmark, France, Australia and more.    

    The latest collaboration between Centro Primo Levi and Awen Films production company, Iom Romì creates a window into the unique, deeply rooted Jewish community of Rome. The film was complimented by a following screening of home movies from the Roman-Jewish Della Seta family in 1923, just 15 years before Italy’s discriminatory Racial Laws went into effect.

    Sunday evening’s selection concluded with the US premiere of Counterlight, an abstract short by Israeli visual artist Maya Zack. Inspired by the works of Romanian-born poet Paul Celan, the artist chronicles the hypnotic journey of an archivist who becomes consumed by her probe into the past.    

    After the screenings, Ciriaci and producer Isaak Liptzin engaged the audience with a Q&A on the making of their film, Iom Romì. The two have previously collaborated on the documentary If Only I Were That Warrior, which won the 2016 Italian Golden Globe.

    Filming Living History:

    Shot over the course of seven days, Iom Romì ’s story arch follows several voices within Rome’s Jewish community from dawn to dusk. Weaving the past with the present, the documentary touches the surface of the unique identity, rituals and traditions of a group that has existed in the city for centuries between persecution and integration.

    “We wanted to give just a glimpse, a day in the life of this Jewish community in Rome. So it was mostly about letting the camera film in the Piazza and recreating that atmosphere,” Ciriaci explained to the audience.

    The Piazza the director referred to is Rome’s historic Jewish quarter, the area that enclosed the Roman Ghetto. Pope Paul IV established the ghetto in 1555, as a walled area, adjacent to Tiber River, in which to segregate the city’s Jews. Inhabitants were allowed to leave during the daytime, but they were required to wear specific clothing (yellow hats with bells and two blue stripes across the chest) that identified them as Jews.

    The growing population of Jews in the ghetto lived in poverty and overcrowded conditions. Men were confined to two areas of work: money lending and peddling clothing. At the same time, Jews were only allowed to have on synagoge, and were required to attend Catholic churches in the surrounding area. This was intended to persuade them to convert to Christianity, which some did, both voluntarily and by force. Yet, the circumstances encouraged strong community bonds, and allowed the birth of distinct Roman Jewish customs.  

    Ghetto restrictions were abolished in 1870, at the end of papal dominion of Rome. It was at this time that Jews were granted full citizenship. Withstanding the tragedies of World War II and Fascist Italy, the Roman Jewish community is still alive and active today. But the story of Jews in Rome began long before the ghetto was ever established.     

    “I didn’t know much [about the Jewish community in Rome], although it’s strange because I live about five minutes from the Piazza,” said Ciriaci, eliciting a chuckle from the audience. “But I knew very little, especially the historic part. Jews have been there even before the Romans and the Roman Empire. We can find traces of Jews in Rome as far back as 700 BC.”

    The Roman Empire began with its first emperor, Augustus Caesar, in 27 BC. This was even more than a century after the first Jewish settlement in the area was formed (161 BC) by messengers of Judah Maccabee.

    “It was funny for both of us, from the different backgrounds that we had,” said producer Isaak Liptzin of being first introduced to the story. “For me, I’m American and I’m an Ashkenazi Jew and I had no idea that there even was this Jewish community in Rome, and I knew nothing about it. We were pretty ignorant about it in different ways, but we brought different perspectives to it when we got there.”

    Using frames of vibrant color and engaging, charismatic characters, Liptzin and Ciriaci accomplish an informative testament to the contemporary Roman Jewish community, while simultaneously tracking its rich history. The documentary opens many intriguing that, at its end, leave viewers wanting more.    

    Digging Deeper:

    The film was incubated within the opening of The Rome Lab at the Center for Jewish History in New York. During the Q&A, Ciriaci revealed that the idea behind Iom Romi came when he was approached by Natalia Indrimi from Centro Primo Levi about making a video contribution to a larger project. The exhibition, which ran from September until earlier this month, created a learning space where members of the Jewish community in Rome could explain their history and society to an American audience.

    “The idea was to make a documentary–which was supposed to be way shorter–and just to screen it at the exhibition,” he said.  

    Slowly, the project grew bigger and bigger, as the crew gathered research and potential subjects. “Probably the hardest part was preparing for the film trip, rather than the filming itself,” Liptzin explained. “So in the months leading up to filming, we started building this giant spreadsheet of contacts we were getting (mostly from CPL and our own research), trying to figure out how to structure the project.”

    They found even more contacts once they got to Rome, sometimes shooting subjects the day after they had reached out to them. Much of the unused footage was incorporated into an installation for the Rome Lab.    

    Upon completion of the documentary and exhibition, Ciriaci and Liptzin sent Iom Romì to several film festivals. The film’s first screening was at Pitigliani Kolno’s Festival in Rome this past November.

    “Hopefully this is the beginning of a long journey for the film,” Ciriaci anticipated.  

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    Roman-born director Valerio Ciriaci graduated from La Sapienza University with a major in Communication Sciences. In 2011, he moved to NYC, where he currently works as a documentary filmmaker and freelance videographer. Ciriaci's latest feature documentary, “Mister Wonderland,” is expected to be released in late 2018;  

    Born in San Fransisco, Isaak Liptzin lived in Italy until 2009, when he moved to NYC to pursue photography at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. He is a co-founder of Awen Films, where he works as a cinematographer and producer.   

  • Life & People

    Outstanding Italian Women: An Epiphany at NOIAW

    On Jan. 17, NOIAW hosted its annual Greater New York Epiphany Celebration at the Columbus Citizens Foundation Townhouse on the Upper East Side. For the organization’s ninth celebration in NY, attendees gathered to continue the tradition of distinguishing accomplished and inspiring members of the female Italian-American community.   

    A Crucial Organization:

    For decades, NOIAW has labored under the mission of promoting the advancement and progress of Italian-American women in the workplace and society. They are dedicated at the same time to preserving Italian heritage, language and culture across generations. The organization inspires strength in solidarity, through local, national and international programs and events in the arenas of mentorship, scholarship and cultural exchange.

    With NOIAW’s founding in 1980, mothers of the sisterhood, led by Dr. Aileen Riotto Sirey (who was in attendance at the Epiphany celebration), sought to realize their vision of a national network– one that would support the educational and professional aspirations of Italian-American women, as well as combat ethnic stereotypes by providing a platform for positive role models in the community.

    The organization’s pioneering members include integral Italian-American women who have stood as prominent figures in society. Former member of the US House of Representatives from NY Geraldine A. Ferraro and former first lady of NY Matilda Raffa Cuomo (mother of current NY Governor Andrew Cuomo) were among the attendees of NOIAW’s cardinal meeting.

    Over the course of 38 years, NOIAW has flourished into an international organization, connecting women with Italian ancestry all over the US with their counterparts in Italy, Argentina and Australia

    The Honorees:

    “It is never too late or never too much to remind ourselves how important and inspiring is the role of the women who, day by day, try to make a difference,“ said recently appointed Vice Console General of Italy to New York Silvia Limoncini as she addressed the crowd at Wednesday’s event.

    As the festivities progressed, all those in the room were encouraged to do just that. Founder Dr. Riotto Sirey introduced the first of three “wise women” of the hour to be recognized for their achievements. Elizabeth F. Defeis is a professor at Seton Hall University’s School of Law, where she served as dean emeritus from 1983-1988. She is the recipient of four Fulbright Scholarships, and has been a member of NOIAW since its early years. Defeis’ career and expertise on human rights, democracy and constitution-building has taken her all over the world. Currently, she is Advisor to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See.

    “This is indeed a wonderful time to be an italian-American woman,” Defeis addressed the audience upon accepting her award. “I think we can all be so proud of the Italian culture that’s being shared here in New York City.”

    “Today, women are raising their voices in unprecedented numbers, and people are listening,” she continued. “My plea to you then, is to say something. You have something to say, you have very much to contribute. So raise your voices.”

    The next woman to be awarded was Dr. Teresa Ghilarducci, who holds the Bernard L. and Irene Schwartz Chair in Economic Policy Analysis at The New School for Social Research–where she also directs the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis . She is an economist and nationally recognized expert on retirement security, advocating for pension reform and the creation of Guaranteed Retirement Accounts. Ghilarducci has authored works published by Princeton University Press and MIT University Press, and has an upcoming book to be published by Columbia University Press.  

    Ghilarducci accepted her award, beginning her speech by giving the audience insight into grandparent’s journey to the US from Italy, pushing through immigration law that target Italians and Jews. She went on to trace the events of her life, springing from her family’s immigration, that led her to work toward solving America’s economic crises.

    “I also have recently spoken up on behalf of older women, who face an enormous amount of discrimination in the labor market,” she said. “They face forces that make their pensions much lower than for men.”

    “And for good fortune, we live a lot longer. But without speaking up, we will be facing another 10, 20, 30 years of immiseration of older people in the United States, especially older women,” Ghilarducci concluded.

    The final awardee honored, Paola Prestini, is an accomplished composer and trailblazer, having been named one of Musical America’s “Top 30 Musical Innovators” in 2016. The Washington Post has named her one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music,” and NPR Music has labeled her one of the “Top 100 Composers in the World.” Prestini is co-founder and artistic director of National Sawdust, a nonprofit space in Brooklyn for performance and arts incubation, which has no merged with the multimedia production company VisionIntoArt, of which she is also a co-founder. Her music was performed in prestigious arenas such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the New York Philharmonic. Prestini’s latest immersive theater project, Epiphany (composed in collaboration with Netsayi and Sarah Kirkland Snider) will be performed in London this Spring.  

    “I now tell artists that there are here as the future,” Prestini explained. “They live in a time where making their own path is celebrated, and it is possible to not sacrifice the full spectrum of our lives. They are 21st century artists. They are talented, but they need to be educators, activists and entrepreneurs.”  

    “This award means a lot to me,” she concluded. “My whole life is not just about my own self-expression, but about building these bridges. And I think Italians are very good at building bridges.”

    President of Greater New York Region of NOIAW MaryRose Barranco Morris, Ed.D., noted “The Greater New York Region of the National Organization of Italian American Women is proud to honor these Three Wise Women of distinction and prominence in their respective fields. Their success is an inspiration to all Italian American women and they serve as role models to our young women.”

     

    In the coming days, NOIAW will honor six more accomplished Italian-American women at its Epiphany celebrations in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

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    The National Organization of Italian American Women (NOIAW) is the only national organization for women of Italian ancestry. The mission of NOIAW is to unite and connect women through Italian culture and heritage; to celebrate the achievements of women of Italian ancestry; to inspire and enrich members with shared interests in cultural programs; and to empower and advance the educational and professional aspirations of current and future generations.

    For more information about NOIAW, its members and programs, or to become a member, visit www.noiaw.org, call (212) 642-2003, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The National Organization of Italian American Women, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization. Contributions are tax deductible to the full extent permitted by law.

    To learn more about the National Organization of Italian American Women, visit: http://www.noiaw.org/

  • Art & Culture

    The Sicilian Carts Journey to L.A.

    Organized in collaboration with the MUSCÀ Museum (Museum of the Sicilian Cart), the exhibit is the first of its kind in Los Angeles. The first two editions of the showcase were curated by MUSCÀ at various locations in Taormina, Sicily.

    “We conceived this exhibition as a lens through which to share Sicily itself–the multilayered history of the island,” said Marianna Gatto, IAMLA’s executive director. “The Sicilian cart provides such a wonderful perspective of Sicily’s history, and the many cultures that shaped what we now consider to be Sicilian.”

    The exposition, now traveling to Downtown LA, features two original carretti (traditional horse or donkey-drawn carts), which are an integral facet of Sicily’s anthropology and iconography. Ornate illustrations decorating the carts depicted historic events, literary works and religious subjects, serving as an important means of transmitting knowledge and culture (in addition to physical goods) to an often illiterate population.  

    “We wanted to  not only represent the Sicilian cart as a relic, but also present how even though the cart is no longer the primary form of transportation, that it continues to live on in moden Sicilian culture,” Gatto explained.

    The Sicilian Cart incorporates the support of Dolce & Gabbana, whose collections include designs influenced strongly by Sicilian folklore. Accordingly, the exhibit highlights the carts’ preservation within contemporary fashion, a venture pioneered by the Italian luxury brand.

    Accompanying the two carts, folk art and ancient coins (artifacts borrowed from MUSCÀ’s exhibit) included in the presentation are a selection of carretti-inspired looks from the D&G collection. On display as well is a limited-edition, hand painted refrigerator (and other small household devices) with an intricate Sicilian cart theme, produced by the Italian appliance manufacturer SMEG.  

    “The exhibition really traces the history of Sicily, because much of our audience only has a cursory understanding of where Sicily even is. And we wanted to provide a sense of context,” said Gatto. In this vein, the exhibit informs visitors of various periods throughout Sicily’s history, and includes cultural objects such as three puppets from the island’s iconic Opera dei Pupi.

    The Carretti:

    The first of the spotlighted carretti for The Sicilian Cart exhibit comes from the island’s capital, Palermo. It is thought to have been built and sculpted by Giovanni Raia, and painted by Alcamese artist Giuseppe Manfrè in the 1960s. The cart is adorned with scenes from Ariosto’s epic Orlando Furioso.

    The second cart hails from the Sicilian province of Catania, built by Domenico Morabito and sculpted by Ignazio Russo. It was painted by the artist Antonino Liotta in 1950, just six years before the artist’s death. The carretto is cloaked in scenes from four classic operas: Cavalleria Rusticana, Carmen, Rigoletto and Norma.

    Traditionally, carretti from Palermo were predominantly colored in yellow and possesed trapezoidal sideboards. Their geometric attributes and decorative motifs were inspired by the island’s existing Norman-Arab influence. Carts from Catania, on the other hand, were rectangular and mainly painted red. The flat painting style on these wagons derived mostly from a Renaissance approach, though their motifs used principally Baroque elements.  

    “A large number of Italian-Americans are of Sicilian descent,” Gatto explained. “And I think for many Italian-Americans, who may not have ever been to Sicily, their contact or knowledge of carretti were the little models that their grandmother might have had.” IAMLA's exhibition provides a presentation of these carts in their true state, one that can enhance many visitors' grasp and connection to their heritage.   

    A Dynamic History:

    The carretto first emerged in the early 1800s, as a means of transportation throughout the largest island in the Mediterranean. Led by a horse or donkey, these carts carried wood, and agricultural products like citrus fruits, grains, and wine barrels.

    Standing as one of the most popular symbols of Sicilian folklore iconography, in its essence the cart combined functionality with art and storytelling tradition. Painting the carretto served several functions: the paint protected and preserved the cart’s wood, images could be used as advertising for commercial carts, and superstition believed the depicted scenes to have the power to ward off bad luck and turmoil.

    Sicilian carts were characterised by a “mania” for decoration, distinguishable by the richness of the forms and colours that enveloped the cart, even the horse, and a desire to maximise the presence of colours and decorative effects that resulted in a truly remarkable chromatic explosion.

    A combination of artisans was needed to create a single caretto.  There were the woodcarvers who carved the panels into intricate designs, the metalworkers who formed the iron undercarriages, and the painters who used bright colors to illustrate the scenes.  Through apprenticeships, the art of cart making was passed down from generation to generation.

    By the 1950s, the caretti were no longer needed as a means of transportation, however, the tradition remained. The bright colors, as well as the fantastic historical, religious, and mythical scenes became symbolic of Sicily’s rich history.  History and culture continued to be transmitted through the ornate artwork depicted on the carts through the years, allowing the carretti’s charm to endure industrialization.

    “Often, [the carts] are merely presented as objects from the past," revealed Gatto "We really wanted to show the contemporary popular culture connections and illustrate how the carretto is still a very important part of the Sicilian consciousness."

    Admission to The Sicilian Cart is free, and the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am - 3pm. To learn more about the exhibit, visit: http://italianhall.org/the-sicilian-cart

  • Life & People

    Erene Mastrangeli: Finding Purpose Within the Chaos

    Spontaneous, serene, authentic, purposeful–Erene Mastrangeli is an Italian-born songstress whose very essence is embodied by her music.  

    Inspired by a blend of both Italian and American musicians, Mastrangeli creates a bilingual genre of sound that she labels “sophisticated pop.” Her music is rich with intricate harmonies, reflecting a complexity the singer is spiritually drawn to. But the songs are also intentionally melodic, so as to be easily remembered by audiencences over a long period of time.    

    Mastrangeli’s musical influences include artists such as Sting, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Pino Daniele and Fabio Concato, who exist in the realm of pop, but at the same time produce layered music which is steadily enjoyed even as decades pass.

    “I would like my music to have more of that eternal quality to it, not trendy or fashionable, but something that stays,” she explained.  

    Now anticipating the release of her upcoming album Love, Shine, the singer-songwriter currently resides in New York City. It is here that her journey of self-discovery has led her, and where she persists to thrive as an artist and influencer.

    Mastrangeli’s path to the US, and to NYC, was not always so clear cut. What brought the chanteuse-style songbird to pursuing a career in the music industry is a dynamic series of twists and turns, woven together by a central thread: her instinctual passion for music and desire to contribute to the experience of others. Ever changing still, her course into the music world is one that parallels the fluidity of human existence.

    “Something took over, more than me deciding ‘this is what I want to do,’” Mastrangeli said of finding her way. “It was just something in me that came through. Only now, in the last few years, there has been a process of becoming more and more conscious of the purpose of my music– why I’m doing it and what my message is.”

    From Torino to New York City:

    Born in Torino, Mastrangeli has been surrounded by music from an early age. Her father is an amateur guitarist who pushed his two daughters to play instruments as kids. She started singing very young, and then at age seven began playing the guitar. From there, Mastrangeli experimented with the piano, the instrument with which she composed her first song when she was 12 or 13 years old.

    “Music has always been part of my life, and I have to say I’m very grateful for that because it’s been my sort of companion,” said the artist.

    Though gifted with a natural talent and attraction to the musical realm, Mastrangeli was not always interested in pursuing a career in the music industry. She first considered career paths in both real estate and psychotherapy while she continued to develop musically as a much more personal venture, eventually constructing complete songs out of her poems and instrumental music she had composed.

    “I found myself into it, there wasn’t really a moment when I decided I want to sing for people,” the songwriter explained, “Actually, I didn’t want to sing for people. Until I was 19, I said I would never sing for anybody, I was doing it for me.”  

    In the end, Mastrangeli’s path led her right back to music. In her last year of high school, she came across some classmates who were looking to start a band. They wanted a male voice, but despite her aversion to performing as a career Mastrangeli found herself compelled to volunteer as a singer for the band. They started the group, performing rock music (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin). And Mastrangeli loved it.  

    A few years later, Mastrangeli was given the opportunity to work as an au pair in San Francisco for fellow musician Giuseppe D’Agostino, whose music she admired. And thus began the young artist’s journey to the US, a place where much of her musical identity and enthusiasm for her craft was nourished. During her stay, D'Agostino helped Mastrangeli record her first demo. The last song she wrote for the project is called “San Lorenzo,” a track which the songwriter still considers one of her best.

    “I fell for San Francisco. [D’Agostino] gifted me a guitar and I would take it to the ocean and to Golden Gate Park and try to write,” Mastrangeli recalled. “There was something that gave me inspiration and freedom.”

    After a few months, Mastrangeli returned to Europe, where she had a truly “wild” experience singing in a Swiss traveling circus for eight months. Yet, at the same time, a desire developed inside her to return to the States. So she went back to Italy for a year and saved money working two jobs in order to pay her way across the Atlantic.

    “The idea was always to come back to the US because I had this developing experience as an artist here,” Mastrangeli said. “This is where I was sort of born as an artist. My songwriting developed so much and there was something here that fed this gift. I found here a freedom that I couldn’t feel in Italy. I was given complete control to do whatever I wanted with my music.   

    Mastrangeli admits that her ending up in New York was random. It was a much closer destination than San Francisco, and therefore a more affordable voyage. The plan was to one day move back to the Gold Gate City. But the artist admits she fell in love with NYC and decided to stay.

    Experiencing the Music Industry:

    “I think that the beauty of being in New York is that you feel less of a foreigner because so many people here are foreigners,” Mastrangeli explained.

    As both a creative pursing her craft outside her native country and as a female in the American music industry, Mastrangeli holds a unique, crucial perspective on what it means to be a musician in this country.

    In terms of being a bilingual Italian artist in the US, Mastrangeli doesn’t feel it has disadvantaged her thus far. Although she has felt more like a foreigner in other parts of the country, in NYC the singer has felt a stunning acceptance and encouragement, especially in performing her Italian songs.  

    “In New York Italian culture is everywhere,” she said. “But in other parts of the country I feel different. Still, there is always curiosity, never hostility. I feel there is equal opportunity that way.”

    As a woman however, Mastrangeli revealed, the difference in experience is much more obvious. Just as we have seen come to light in Hollywood recently, the music industry is no stranger to the institutionalized normalization of sexual harassment. Many female artists have been trained to internalize not only their own encounters with victimization, but also those of other women around them.

    “You would think is an artistic industry so it is more open, but it’s not,” Mastrangeli explained. “It can be actually be more conservative than other industries. A lot of men are still in charge. I think what is mostly upsetting is I’ve had experiences of playing with male musicians, accomplished professionals–never in my band, thankfully–and there was a lot of objectifying women in my presence. As if I was a human being with no gender.”

    Mastrangeli also expressed frustration at the inequality of standards faced by women in the music industry. She related that the issue is twofold: women are seen as generally less capable of reaching an expert aptitude in their craft, therefore those reaching success are automatically assumed to have sold themselves to get there.

    “There is this assumption that if a woman is talented she “plays like a man,” the artist said. “What does that mean? It means that she’s really good at what she does, and it’s assumed that kind of familiarity with an instrument is more of a man’s world.”

    The singer also highlighted another pressure that most of her male counterparts don’t seem to be stressed about: aging. Pointing to her lightly salted curls, Mastrangeli explained that she is not a “spring chicken” anymore, and that she sometimes worries that her changing image will take away from attention to her career. She also recognizes that any transformation of the situation must come from the strength and unity of female artists themselves.

    “I think part of what I want to bring to the world is to inspire other women to keep doing what they’re doing and not care and just be who they are and do their thing,” Mastrangeli asserted. “Let’s actually bring a difference and not cover all these things up. I want to be an example that you can keep doing what you love, and I want to give permission to other women to not care. We have a lot of work to undo and a lot to heal.”

    And Mastrangeli is up for the challenge. The singer-songwriter aspires to create a shift in human consciousness with her music, one what will impact the global community and give a voice to positivity and compassion despite chaos and destruction that seems overwhelmingly present today.

    An Upcoming Album:

    This intention is especially evident in Mastrangeli’s latest project Love, Shine. The album’s title track was written in response to the 2016 Orlando shooting in a gay nightclub, the deadliest mass shooting in US history at the time it occured. With the LGBTQ community having been hit firsthand, the songwriter was propelled to express her reaction.

    “I am a gay artist, so it’s important for me to speak about this stuff and support my community,” said Mastrangeli. “Because at this moment in time when women are speaking up, the LGBTQ community is very threatened by this administration, and I felt an urge to continue to speak about these issues of inequality and discrimination there too.”

    Mastrangeli has announced her collaboration with several LGBTQ organziations in a crowdfunding campaign for the launch and promotion of Love, Shine. She hopes to partner with nonviolence and anti-gun organizations as well. The album is a remembrance of Orlando, but also a momentum driven by ambition to touch as many people as possible with the project’s messages.    

    “I was at this pivotal point where I thought humanity just lost it,” “So I wrote this song ‘Love, Shine.’ It’s an invocation for love to just come and shine because I don’t seem to see it anywhere right now. The theme of the album was to bring this peace and this love to the world.”  

    This mission, which Mastrangeli developed on her life’s journey of self-discovery, is one that may have been determined since birth. Her name, “Erene,” means peace in Greek. She has always been passionate about her name, but only recently did she discover its linguistic significance.

    “Spirituality is part of my path. I just always sought something, and so music, for me, is a vehicle of connection,” Mastrangeli began, “Because of the immediacy of music, I think that it is very powerful, it speaks to the soul so directly. For me now, I think it is very important to focus on messages of hope. My goal is to help people find beauty in humanity, and to really encourage people to focus on their gifts, especially at this moment in time."

    To discover more on Erene Mastrangeli and her upcoming album Love, Shine, please visit: https://www.erenemusic.com/ 

  • Monica Vitti in Red Desert (Deserto Rosso)
    Art & Culture

    Admiring the Nuance of Michelangelo Antonioni at the MoMA

    The Museum of Modern Art is holding a complete retrospective of late writer-director Michelangelo Antonioni’s (1912-2007) work. Open through Jan. 7, the show is the first of its kind in New York for more than a decade.  

    Organized in a collaboration by Luce-Cinecitta, The MoMA and curator Joshua Siegel, the exhibition features nearly 40 digital preservations and 35mm prints of Antonioni’s productions.

    The collection focuses on Antonioni's legendary collaborations with Italian actress Monica Vitti with a catalog of screenings including the trilogy of L’Avventura, L’Eclisse and La Notte, as well as the films Red Desert, Blow-Up and The Passenger. The director’s sociopolitical concerns are also conveyed, as the exhibition showcases his neorealist documentary shorts as well as Chung Kuo-China (1972), an impressionistic film focusing on China during the Cultural Revolution.     

    Born in the northern Italian city of Ferrara, Michelangelo Antonioni was an innovative, versatile film director, screenwriter, editor and short story writer. He began a career in cinema in 1939. In his productions, Antonioni restlessly experimented with composition, camera movement and cuts, developing a unique metaphoric style that was a critical reaction to postwar Neorealism. His works redefined the concept of narrative cinema, as he constantly challenged established traditions and norms in the worlds of storytelling, realism and drama.  

    Rather than maintain the neorealist ideals of recording an untampered reality emphasizing the struggles of real people after the war, Antonioni constructed the films themselves as metaphors for the human experience. His works were structured around the visual (most often the modern industrial landscape), not a conventional plot or character analysis. He rejected action in favor of contemplation and focused on image and design over character and story. Antonioni influenced not only postwar cinematography, but also architecture, design, fashion, literature and even conceptions of reality.

    Book Presentation at IIC:

    In honor of the Michelangelo Antonioni retrospective at the MoMA, New York’s Istituto Italiano di Cultura organized a presentation of the book My Antonioni, edited by Carlo di Carlo and translated in English, a selection of the director’s writings on cinema and his works. The book will accompany the ongoing exhibition.    

    “Michelangelo Antonioni is more than just a filmmaker. He is an incredible Italian artist, and I think that his influence went well beyond the world of movies and cinema,” said IIC Director Giorgio Van Straten as he introduced the event. “I couldn’t imagine a better place to have a retrospective of Antonioni than the MoMA, because how many times while watching his movies have we thought about how much those frames deserve to be in a museum of modern art.”

    The presentation consisted of three speakers, each of whom spoke on Antonioni’s work and their relationship to him. The first was David Forgacs, professor of Contemporary Italian Studies at NYU and director of the school’s Italian department. Forgacs, who was also celebrating his 65th birthday, recalled a fascination with Antonioni that began at the age of 13, when his father took him to see the film Deserto Rosso. He revealed to the audience the techniques of frame composition and expression in Antonioni’s work that have so intrigued him over the years.

    Next to speak was Lila Azam Zanganeh, author of The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness and Love, the World Suddenly Turns, who has taught classes in literature and cinema at Harvard. She gave a personal take on Antonioni and the book based on her position as both a writer and a lover of cinema.

    The final presenter, Antonio Monda, is an Italian writer, film director, essayist, and professor at NYU Tisch. He is also the The Artistic Director of the Rome Film Fest as well as of the literary festival Le Conversazioni, and a co-founder of Open Roads/New Italian Cinema at Lincoln Center. Monda explains that one key word he picked up from the book My Antonioni is change.

    “One of the overlooked elements of Antonioni’s greatness is how he understood how Italy was changing, especially in the early 60’s, from an agricultural nation into an industrial place,” he said. “And this was also changing the way we lived, the Italian soul. Many of Antonioni's ideas and scenes influenced other filmmakers, but Monda believes the idea is always the same: “How industry is changing forever the soul of the characters.”  

    The presentation ended with a word from Antonioni’s widow, Enrica Fico Antonioni, on her late husband.

    “I should be jealous about the title of this book My Antonioni, because Antonioni is mine,” she began. “But Antonioni is also Carlo’s, Antonioni is yours. And I understand that Antonioni can be read by everybody, and everybody has his own Antonioni. And that is really the strength of Michelangelo, that when he makes a film he opens so many questions. And everybody is capable of answering them and making his own movie, his own Antonioni, inside.”

    The Exhibition Debut:

    On the following day, The MoMA celebrated the opening of the Antonioni exhibition with an inaugural event organized by Sally Fischer PR. The occasion drew the presence of notable personalities in addition to the late Antonioni’s wife such as Consul General of Italy in New York Francesco Genuardi and Roberto Cicutto, the president of Istituto Luce-Cinecitta.

    To kick off the retrospective, Antonioni's 1964 film Deserto Rosso (Red Desert) was screened at the museum’s Titus I Theater. The masterpiece was the director’s first color film, which won a Golden Lion and Best Film at the Venice Film Festival that year. Deserto Rosso was the last in a series of four films Antonioni made between 1959 and 1964 starring actress Monica Vitti, who was both a romantic partner and a muse to the director. The film is centered around a woman trying to navigate the modern world of neurosis and existential doubt, using metaphorical representation of empty space and dominant colors to paint a picture of oppression and frustration.

    "Our aim with this retrospective is first of all to give Antonioni's masterpieces to the new generations of cinema lovers, who have never seen the art on the big screen,” explained exhibition curator Siegel at the opening.

    For more on the Antonioni exhibition and a schedule of film screenings, please visit: https://www.moma.org/calendar/film/3894?locale=en

     

     

  • MEIS how it will look like in 2020
    Art & Culture

    Integral Jewish Museum Opens in Ferrara

    Centuries of Jewish history in Italy are now uncovered and on display to the public in Ferrara's new National Museum of Italian Judaism and Shoah (MEIS). Historical Jewish presence is in Italy is palpable as one encounters the lingerings of synagogues, catacombs and ghettos scattered throughout the country, as well as museums dedicated to the subject. MEIS will be the first centralized institution dedicated to illustrating the overarching history of Italian Jews over 22 centuries, located in a city essential to this narrative.

    On Dec. 13, President Sergio Mattarella and Culture Minister Dario Franceschini attended the opening of the museum and its inaugural temporary exhibit Jews, an Italian Story: The First Thousand Years, which navigates the history of Jewish existence  in Italy from ancient Roman times until the Middle Ages. The exhibition will continue through Sept.16, 2018.  

    “With this exhibition, a dream has been achieved and a great void filled,” said Franceschini, who has been a longtime supporter of the project, “[The museum] is an important site because it recalls the Jewish presence in the country and will be an important place for youths, for people who know little of the millennial history of Italian Judaism.”

    One Thousand Years of Jewish History:

    Curated by Anna Foa, Giancarlo Lacerenza and Daniele Jalla, the exhibit displays 200 precious objects hailing from institutions all over the world, such as Genizah in Cairo, the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, the Vatican Museums and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. These artifacts include rings, seals, coins, amulets, oil lamps, manuscripts, Medieval documents and epigraphs from Roman and Medieval times.

    Visitors will travel a path through five major scenarios identifying places of origin and dispersion for the Jewish people while tracing the routes of the Jewish diaspora and exile to the western Mediterranean after the destruction of the Temple. The exhibit explores themes of migration, slavery, integration and religious intolerance, documenting time spent in Southern Italy and continuing through the Dark Ages to the Crusades, a time in which Jewish culture saw remarkable stability in Italy.

    Ferrara has a Jewish history dating back to Medieval times, and was once a hub for Jews of diverse geographic and cultural backgrounds. In the 1500’s the Este court provided haven within the city for Jews persecuted throughout Europe. A strong Jewish presence remained in Ferrara until Mussolini enacted discriminatory racial laws during World War II. Giorgio Bassani delves into this particular part of the Italian Jewish history in his novel The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, which takes place in Ferrara. Given the city’s intrinsic role in culmination of Jewish culture in Italy, the establishment of a museum dedicated to Jewish history there is profoundly significant.

    The Finished Museum:

    The museum has been under development since 2003, when its creation was approved by the Italian parliament through a mandate and nearly $55 million funding allocation. MEIS is located within the buildings that once constituted Ferrara’s prison complex until 1992. In fact, it is the very prison where Bassani (himself from a Jewish family) was held for resisting Mussolini's rule.

    To this date, two buildings in the complex have undergone reconstruction. The final museum, which will house a permanent core exhibit, will be unveiled in 2020. In its completion, MEIS will comprise five modern buildings inspired by the Torah’s five books, each resembling a giant, transparent book written in Hebrew.

    Once completed, as MEIS explains on their website, the museum will represent a testimonial to “the dialogue between cultures, the contribution of minorities, the richness of multiple identities, the beauty of knowing a different world that lives within and embraced by our own.”

  • Dining in & out

    Pizzaiolo Napoletano Earns Cultural Honor from UNESCO

    The time-honored Neapolitan art of pizzaiolo (pizza-maker) has been distinguished with a spot on UNESCO’s prestigious Intangible Cultural Heritage List, the organization announced on Dec. 7. The decision was approved by the UN cultural body’s world heritage committee at a meeting on the South Korean island of Jeju.

    Pizzaiolo tradition, which has been handed down for generations in Naples, is one of 12 new elements added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage List at this time. Thirty-four candidates applied to join the list.

    The compilation of cultural practices and expressions, created by UNESCO in 2003,  for the purpose of demonstrating diversity and raising awareness about the importance of heritage. UNESCO sometimes offers financial or technical support to countries struggling to protect traditions as well.

    According to head of the Association of Neapolitan Pizzaioli, Sergio Miccu, nearly 2 million people signed the petition supporting Naples’ application. Now, pizzaiolo joins more than 350 traditions, arts and practices on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List, from nations all over the world (from a Turkish oil-wrestling festival to a whistled language used on the Spanish island La Gomera). Other items on the list hailing of Italy include: Sicilian Puppet Theatre (Opera dei Pupi), Sardinian Pastoral Songs (Canto a tenore), traditional violin craftsmanship from Cremona, processions featuring large, shoulder-borne structures, and the agricultural practice from Pantelleria of cultivating head-trained bush vines (vite ad alberello).   

    The Art of Pizzaiolo:

    Nearly 3,000 pizzaioli live and perform their art in Naples today. Pizza Napoletana is distinguished by simple, fresh ingredients (basic dough, raw tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and olive oil) and unique process defined by masterful handling of the dough. Pizzaioli hurl pizza dough into the air oxygenating it to create a light consistency. Neapolitan pizzas are generally small, often using more sauce than cheese, and cooked at extremely high temperatures (800 F - 900 F) for no more than 90 seconds.   

    Passed down for centuries, the art of pizzaiolo has grown far beyond just dough twirling to become an integral part of Neapolitan culture, including songs and stories that have turned pizza-making into a social ritual. Knowledge and skills of the craft are transmitted in the ‘bottega,’ where apprentices learn from observing a master at work. Pizzaiolo plays a key role in social gatherings and intergenerational exchange. 

    In the streets of Naples, proud pizzaioli celebrated their victory by showing off acrobatic pizza-tossing and handing out pizzas to all those passing by.

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