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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bella Venezia!


Ever since I laid eyes on her, I have been in love with her.

After graduating from college, I backpacked through Europe for several weeks with a friend. We visited dozens of cities from Copenhagen to Rome. But the city that completely stole my heart was Venice. I didn't know then that I would end up studying the beautiful and expressive language of Italian, that I would marry a man who was born in a small Italian village, or that I would become an artist in a medium mastered on an Italian island.

Walking through the narrow Venetian streets and along the canals without a destination in mind is a joy that is hard to describe. I lose myself in this beautiful city the same way I lose myself when I work with glass (vetro) and my thoughts are held hostage by this material that communicates light, color and form.

I am enamored with the sight of the gondolas and the gondoliers as they gracefully navigate impossibly tight turns, low bridges and other water vehicles through the shallow canals. I marvel at the tilt of the settling structures with their incredible architectural detail as they lean in toward each other to whisper the secrets they have witnessed over the centuries. Even the windows are works of art and are often beautified even further with flowers.

I gape at the beautiful designer shops stocking the latest runway fashions on the famous Campo San Moise just off of Piazza San Marcos. Lined all in a row, it is difficult to walk by without wanting to touch the fabrics, try on a few outfits and feel the luxury. I study the store windows filled with the masks that have become synonymous with Venice and I wonder about the promiscuous times during the 12th century when masks were worn to protect the identity of those engaging in decadent activities. I easily imagine myself living in Venice now, walking through the passageways on my way to a trattoria to grab pranzo (lunch) with a friend, or to meet with a shop owner to discuss selling my art in their store.

A Venetian mask
The Grand Canal at Sunset
Designer Shops
I have been to Venice several times since graduating, the last time being 2004, right before I began taking an interest in glass. You can imagine my excitement when our friends invited my husband and I to join them during their stay in Venice, which coincided with our travel plans to Italy this week!

This time, the experience of Venice had an even more profound effect on me. I looked at the glass displayed in the shops with a knowledge of what the process is behind the fabrication of each piece. I recognized the varying levels of quality and steered clear of the stores closest to Piazza San Marco, those beckoning tourists looking for inexpensive gifts and souvenirs. I found treasures to behold and couldn't believe the creativity and skill that today's artisans employ in their works of glass art.

A glass gallery full of unique creations
Tourist trap!
The most rewarding experience during this trip however was my visit to the island of Murano (where the most reputable glass is created). Although the factories close every August so the master glass blowers can take their holiday and so that all of the kilns can be rebuilt, the showrooms are still open. We visited several showrooms, the most impressive being that of Mazzega. I was completely blown away by the artistry, diversity and absolute beauty of the creations I saw there. We met the very warm and charming manager there, Dr. Girogio Padoan and had a wonderful conversation with him about the medium of glass, the art his gallery represents and about my work. I gained new ideas, new contacts and a new friend.

I could go on and on, but it is better that you experience Venice yourself if you haven't already. Besides, I don't think this conversation is over...

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