Below are descriptions of works and projects that will be presented at Winter Open Studios 2022 at the American Academy in Rome, taking place January 27, 2022. An essay titled “Openness,” written by Interim Andrew Heiskell Arts Director Lindsay Harris (2014 Fellow), accompanies the event.
To see beyond it and to access the places that we know lie outside its walls
Firelei Báez will present new site-specific paintings and a sculptural installation in response to diasporic histories embedded within various locations in Rome. These works will seek to reinstate the underrepresented stories of women who have played significant roles within Italian history, initiating moments of resistance and also healing. The artist frequently explores histories of Afro-Caribbean women overshadowed by, albeit absolutely foundational to, Western narratives about migration—including Marie-Louise Christophe, the first queen of Haiti who was forced into exile, ultimately settling in Pisa. By reclaiming Christophe’s story from the margins, celebrating her resilience in the face of unrest and migration and presenting her as integral to the rising of a new culture in the New World, Báez aspires to encourage a more complex view of the independence movements that occurred throughout the Americas during this period.
William Villalongo will present a sculptural work in process, entitled Beacon. Central to the artist’s project is the collecting of signs of Black presence within a deep trajectory of time. Through real histories and speculation, he considers continuities between the Black Atlantic and the Mediterranean world. The velvet-flocked gourds that populate Beacon appear alongside a variety of objects that carry symbolic weight for the artist, signifying wayfinding, liberation, and healing. Each object is linked by a network of gold chains, not unlike charms on a bracelet. The velvet flocking acts to shift meaning from the literal to the metaphoric. The gourds reference the Big Dipper constellation once used as a navigational device on the Underground Railroad by enslaved Africans in America. Villalongo uses them here as beacons in a global context. The minerals attached, obsidian and quartz, are believed to shield against negative energies, dissolving emotional blockages and ancient trauma. A Testa di Moro absorbing these minerals hangs upside down with basil. A variety of sea shells and coral speak to Black labor, trade by sea, and how water connects us over time and space.
Eric N. Mack & Jessica Hagedorn
The fountain in the Cortile will be used to contain a fabric collage. All damp—between text and textile. The installation will perform material absorption. The ever-flowing fountain is a condition of experiencing the collage—submerged and unified.
Jessica Hagedorn and Eric N. Mack collaborate on a series of maps, mood boards, collages, essays, text messages, visualizing shared “cookies of history.” These imaged constellations invoke past and present. Presence and absence. The presentation of these poetic miniature billboards converse with memory.
Promiscuous Cultures: Practices of Resistance in the Valle Umbra
The sixth great extinction is not just an extinction of species, but an extinction of diversity of all kinds, including cultural diversity.
Phoebe Lickwar’s project documents the persistence of the coltura promiscua, an ancient form of agriculture notable for its preservation of natural and cultural diversity. A defining feature of the rural landscape of central Italy until the 1960s, the coltura promiscua is a system of mixed cultivation of tree crops, vines, and arable crops or grassland, based upon symbiotic relationships between plants, animals, soil, and water. Largely eradicated by global monocultural systems of commercial extraction, the coltura promiscua has been characterized as an “unproductive” tradition of the past, even though it is exceptionally life sustaining and future oriented.
The coltura promiscua is not lost, but it has been marginalized and disregarded. Photographic work in progress tells the story of what remains, describing the beauty of its spatial and biological complexity, its powerful resistance to the extractive logics of specialization, and its insistence on life over profit.
body_no_thing is a multimedia work by Igor Santos on the theme of fountains and its relationship to the piano. The piece showcases sounds and images from fountains in Rome, quotes related works from the canonic music literature, and engages with the rituals and labor of live performance. My general approach is to create connections between these worlds in a complex mimetic cycle—constantly navigating between the piano, performer, and real-life samples, as well as back and forth in historical time.
The work also dresses the pianist and the piano in white cloth, allowing images to be projected onto them while also emulating both the marble and travertine of fountains, and the folds of baroque ornamentation. The design for the outfit and piano were made in collaboration with Philip Guston Rome Prize Fellow Eric N. Mack.
Tina Tallon with James Beacham
Subsumption, No. 1
A collaboration between sound artist Tina Tallon and particle physicist and filmmaker James Beacham, Subsumption, No. 1 is a site-specific interactive sound, light, and video installation that examines different registers in which we engage with hidden physical, psychological, and social structures and the emergent behaviors that result from these interactions. The viewer is complicit in the construction of their experience, unique to each participant, subject to rules not fully legible—and perhaps unknowable—but inescapable. The viewer’s movements through AAR’s Cryptoporticus mold field recordings, images, and data from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN into new visual and sonic patterns, questioning the biases that lead us to classify stimuli as noise or signal in an effort to elucidate the underlying structures that give rise to our experiences of space and time. Subsumption, No. 1 asks what we owe ourselves—and more importantly, what we owe each other—in protecting spaces of potentiality for all of the stories that have yet to be told, both on human and cosmic timescales. Ultimately, the work asks us to consider our roles in constructing and maintaining unjust hegemonies, and to imagine what alternatives may exist if only we refuse to accept the status quo and insist upon continuing to search.
Keith Mitnick & Mireille Roddier
Six Architectures in Search of an Author
In Six Architectures in Search of an Author, Keith Mitnick and Mireille Roddier are working to develop a collection of stories that feature—in words, drawings, photographs, and models—six well-known Roman edifices. Told through a variety of artistic forms, these stories will eschew traditional narrative formats to reveal new ways of thinking about and seeing the city. So far, Mitnick and Roddier have focused on experimenting with drawings and photographs that capture initial impressions of the six buildings in order to lay the groundwork for the stories we will tell.
Autumn Knight will present a work in progress, Niente/Nothing #5. This live experience will take place in the artist’s studio amongst an installation. Themes to be explored include nothingness, otium, dolce far niente, boredom, humor, elasticity, labor, laziness, and time.
The Invention of Cities
Valerio Morabito’s project involves the creation of large drawings on canvas that represent imagined cities, invisible forests and trees, and cities and trees structured together to build creative spaces. During Open Studios he will exhibit two drawings, New York, Central Park and New York Underground. These pictures are not objective renderings of New York; they instead aim to imagine the city through abstract ideas and concepts, revealing it with unexpected shapes and plans.
Morabito will also present drawings of forests and trees. One large canvas, Buck Hill Falls through John’s Window, depicts autumn from the vista of a magnificent home that overlooks the woodlands in a small resort town two hours from Philadelphia. Another pair of drawings show Invisible Trees—they do not exist in reality but rather represent ideas of trees, contaminations of species forms, and families. These trees are “invisible” not unlike the writer Italo Calvino’s cities.
Winter Open Studios is made possible by the Adele Chatfield-Taylor Fund for the Arts. The program is also funded in part by a grant from the Fromm Music Foundation and in part by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.