Una mostra d’arte! A show in Italy, in a beautiful little hill town in a charming antique house, what could be better? I would love to be positive, but waxing poetic won’t put much of a shine on this experience, I am afraid.
I have a couple of dear friends, who are also women who paint. This being so, we like to get together every so often and show what we have been doing, exhibiting our new work with a relaxing meet-and-greet. I anticipate these occasions with warm feelings of camaraderie, and I wasn’t disappointed with our hours together this time; chit-chat on the couch, tarallini and some decent prosecco. Pisticci is a magical little white fairy town, an aggregation of cubic ticky-tacky dwellings, aligned as if to shout down the Italian tendency toward disorderly conduct, on top of a steeply-eroding hill. Words don’t do justice to the spectacularity of its appearance, day or night. It is the perfect ambiance in which to display one’s paintings.
Or so I thought, until our numerous visitors began to shun anything which didn’t depict either a familiar house, a favorite corner, or a relative or friend. I have always intended that my landscapes would proselytize Lucania, showing its singular charms as I see them. I am out for the “feel” of the place, and my subjects are often invented, changed-up, amalgamations of places. They are not immediately recognizable places which can be classified as “my uncle!” or “my uncles house!” I underestimated our visitors’ predilection for familiarity with the subject! So each evening progressed, our lovely, tiny little gallery having an invisible divider at half-room. It was as if a provincial deus-ex-machina had plugged in one of those ultrasound machines for mice, keeping out onlookers who might venture beyond the confines of their tiny known world. I can only imagine what reaction, or lack thereof, an abstract or conceptual piece might have instigated. I am sure that if a conceptual piece included local white houses and relatives it would have been a resounding hit!
Not all our visitors were affected by the force field, and there was an occasional request about prices…Oh mortification! Why even offer for sale in an ambiance in which potential buyers expect to get two for the price of one? I had three requests and each simply stared blankly and turned to leave after I supplied a price. To add insult to my own injury, I even misquoted a price to one gentleman, multiplied by three, and I cannot blame him for asking me, (bless him) “Isn’t that a little high?” Yes, I said, and I truly meant it. Please forgive me. I never expected to sell in this little venue, and having to quote American gallery prices, even reduced by half, is one of the things I detest most. This is where the gallery should take over, the smoothest of middlemen, to relieve the artists of being subjected to undue suffering, making them barkers at their own humble sideshow act. The bearded lady shouldn’t have to sell discounted tickets to the same people who will come to snicker and throw popcorn at her in the half-light, after all.
I packed up my wares and dashed away as quickly as possible on the last evening, with the knowledge that my best-laid plans again had gone askew. When selling is not the target, what we artists have to give our viewers is a glimpse of what we love, what we see, what we wish to say in our particular language. I don’t believe there are any artists who, having dedicated themselves to learning their craft, producing the work, putting together and publicizing a show, expect that practically no one will even look at the pieces there! It had never happened to me, up to now that is. A word of advice to the wonderful people who come to see a show, and are precious: If the artist is present, please have a look around at all four walls; it is small payment for artists who work very hard to share their work with you.
And so I am left with the impression that in some way I have given the best of myself for nothing. “First world problems, mom!” my son says, and he is right. Of course it is an exaggeration, a small tempest which has made the tea in my pot bitter. With this in mind, here are a few of my paintings of Basilicata. I hope (and I absolutely trust you will!!) that you will look at them, and they will brighten your day. Will I show again under these circumstances? Of course I will, mothers never remember the birth, after all. And there will be more work, new work, and I simply cannot resist sharing with anyone who is willing to come and see them. Thank you all for allowing me to show them to you!