Symphonies of Italy

Symphonies of Italy

June 1st – July 25th, 2010
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 17th, 5:00-9pm

Preview the book:
Symphonies of Italy - Through the Visionary Eyes of Ten Artists

Sandra Wakeen, Chianti Vineyard, Oil on linen, 14 x 28”

The word symphony is defined as ' a harmonious collection of elements.' It implies an almost mystical level of inclusion, with scores of disparate sounds coming together to form one single, melodic theme. Aptly named, Royal's newest exhibition, Symphonies of Italy, is comprised of the work of ten different artists, eight American and two Italian. The common thread is Italy - Fiesole, to be exact: a charming Etruscan town located just outside Florence, where for two weeks this past Fall, the group came together to live, explore, and create.

They stayed at the historic Residenza di Palmerino, a privately owned, 15th century villa that has passed through the hands of some of the most renowned families in Florence. The villa also boasts an impressive artistic lineage; in 1889 it was purchased by English author Vernon Lee who regularly entertained such acclaimed literary and artistic figures as John Singer Sergeant, Edith Warton, and Aldous Huxley. The current family owners, inhabitants of the property since 1935, have maintained this connection to the larger artistic community and often host and promote individual artists and events.

Sandra Wakeen, one of Royal's eminent artists and leader of the two week artistic sojourn, stumbled upon this creative haven several years ago while planning a trip to Italy with her husband. She calls her connection to the villa and the owner Federica, 'serendipitous' and describes how the family adopts visitors, treating them as if they were one of their own. "We have like minds, Federica and I," she says, "We share a passion for art. [After my visit] I knew this place was too special not to share." Sandra has since returned to the villa twice - the year following her initial trip with one additional artist and last year with the nine person group around whose work Symphonies of Italy is structured.

The promotion of cultural exchange is the driving force behind the exhibition, and a concept for which both Sandra and Federica display intense devotion. To open the dialogue, each American artist brought an example of their work to share with the family of the Residenza di Palmerino and the two Italian artists who joined them there. These works, along with everything produced during the course of their stay, were featured in a show hosted by the villa entitled Scorci fiorentini - Works in progress. The opening was well attended and included such notable guests as Cristina Acidini, Superintendent of the Authority for Cultural Heritage and State Museums in the Florence Area, and Richard Freemantle, founder of FFAST, the Fremantle Foundation for Foreign Artists in Tuscany. The latter not only purchased several pieces for his permanent collection, but also offered every participating artist the opportunity to show their work in the emerging museum affiliated with his foundation.

Sandra found that this sort of expansive hospitality was in no short supply during her third visit. In her words, "It was more than just a painting trip. One door after another opened for us." Quite literally in fact; for the duration of their stay at Palmerino, the neighboring villas opened their gates to the group of artists, allowing them to paint in whichever grounds they chose. Even notoriously inaccessible locations made exceptions; it was the first time artists were welcomed to paint within the walls of Villa Pietra, NYU's Fiesole campus. It is likely that the group's enthusiasm for landscape painting did much to inspire generosity in their Italian hosts. As Sandra explains,

"In Italy, it is difficult to find contemporary artists that go outside to paint. They [Italian artists] have lived with the Renaissance all their lives, while we who have not, are still in awe and inspired by our surroundings. I think they were very surprised with how open and receptive we were to plein air painting. "

Royal Gallery is proud to present Symphonies of Italy, an exhibition celebrating the evolution of this inspiration. Works will be shown by Sandra Wakeen, Elizabeth Stone, Lindsay Palermo, Douglas Gillette, Art Scholz, Kelly Leahy-Radding, Beverly Branch, and Rodolfo Ceccotti. The exhibition will run from June 1st to July 25th with an Opening Reception on Thursday, June 17th. To further promote cultural exchange, many of the group's Italian hosts, Federica and Richard Freemantle included, will be 'attending' the reception via a live internet connection! All are invited to view the artwork, enjoy refreshments, and take this very special opportunity to meet both the artists themselves and their new-found Italian friends.

Top row from left to right: Sandra Wakeen, Spirit of Italy, Beverly Branch, Fresh Air (Windy), Douglas Gillette, Giardino Accento, Kelly Leahy-Radding, Monica’s Persimmons and Scare Swallowtail Butterfly, Lindsay Palermo, Path in Fiesole

Bottom row from left to right: Elizabeth Stone, Gold Putto, Leeanne Williams, L’albero di Pino Italiano, Roberto Ceccotti, Collina in Val di Chiana, Sandra Wakeen, Beatrice’s Garden, Art Scholz, Walk of Faith