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A few years ago I got this idea that if I could only find a group of artist friends to collaborate with, good things would happen. Fast forward, and WAM-Women.Artists.Mentors. has evolved beyond my wildest dreams. The more we interact, the more we inspire each other. The more we inspire each other, the more amazing our adventures become. Our WAM group has taken on a life of its own, and I can tell this story because of it. Helen Beacham hosted our first WAM art show in Charleston, SC. Maria Bennett Hock and I fell in love with the architecture, the coastline, the southern hospitality that Charleston offers. We had such a fun time there, we set to work scheduling future art shows in galleries and museums across the country.
This is my story of how traveling to Venice has inspired and influenced the artist in me.
Just as we grew from our Asian adventure, WAM has grown stronger through sharing time in Venice. Helen Beacham has loved this floating city for years now, and was so generous to share it with the rest of us. A large part of the excitement on this trip was Helen’s eagerness to share. She knew we would all be affected. But oh my goodness – Venice is so different from anyplace else on this planet. We didn’t encounter any, but there are stories of pick pockets, so you need to stay vigilant. There are no motorized vehicles in Venice or the surrounding islands. You hear carts on the cobblestones. Church bells ring regularly. The sound of waves hitting the dock is ever present. I never thought I would feel so lulled and peaceful in a large city in Italy. You can close your eyes there, and it’s like you are listening to one of those soundtracks intended to put you to sleep.
I have to reread the Harry Potter books now. I don’t know if J.K. Rowling ever visited Venice, but every street there feels like Diagon Alley to me. Buildings from the 17th century or older loom and you often have only a few feet between them. They open up into squares with centuries old cisterns and water fountains. This is where children play, vendors sell gelato and espresso. I kept feeling like I was a few steps away from Middle Earth.
Since I still have Japan in my heart, I brought that zen feeling with me to Italy, and now I am bursting with ideas for paintings that sing with patterns and textures and colors that will transport me back to the glass in Murano, the colorful homes in Burano, and the shuttered windows and flower boxes on the Venetian Lagoon. I wanted to stand on a balcony and yell for Romeo but my friends reminded me I wasn’t in Verona – a mear technicality.
So what were my Venetian takeaways when it comes to my art?
1. Leonardo Da Vinci and Michaelangelo walked the same streets I was on. So many scenes from paintings in museums depict Venice, and now that I’ve seen some of those same vistas, I will recognize them. I have to get out more. There is a whole world of inspiration, and I’ve been sequestered in my studio. This has to change!
2. I’ve suspected it for some time, but Venice put it right in my face. I love dichotomies. The yin and yang, male and female, leather and lace, ancient and modern. These are themes I want to continue to explore in my art. Checking messages on my cell phone while sketching along The Grand Canal and hearing church bells that have been ringing for generations – There is so much to enjoy when worlds collide.
3. I’m going to go all “Avatar” here. There is a commonality to humanity now that no others have known before us. We are truly living globally. Time and again, we laughed that Bruce Springsteen was singing from speakers in a glass jewelry store, or country music was playing in a shop that made Venetian masks. In San Marco Square bands were playing Jewish wedding dances. As there is more and more sharing between cultures, art provides a historical record of how things change. We are not just creating lovely pictures. As artists, we are providing future generations with a peek into our world.
4. I toured an exhibit of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions. I was struck with how Leonardo is a household name, and even though he was a genius inventor, sculptor, architect, scientist, musician, mathematician, engineer, writer, geologist, gastronomist, and paleontologist, the thing he is most remembered for is being a painter of fine art. The Mona Lisa and Last Supper are considered his greatest achievements. Out of everything he did, his art was the most remembered and the most enduring. Wow! What an honor it is to be an artist.
And what a blessing it was to be able to take these vacations that inspire. I hope to¬†take many more. But for now, I need to paint. Arrivederci!
Click Debra Keirce to see her art.