Week 6 MIRA artist residency and my time here is “drawing” to an end. (Couldn’t help myself!) The exhibition of the four of us: myself, Margherita Martinelli (Italy), Angela Ginn (Northern Ireland) and Hilary Robin Schmidt (New York), who have been here over June and July, opens this Friday night the 23rd of July and is running concurrently with the annual San Pantaleone Festival, Saint Pantaleone being the patron saint of Martignano.
For me, this has been a very worthwhile and rewarding experience on many levels and MIRA comes highly recommended in my book. The bonus for me has been the opportunity to meet some very special people in this small, quiet, rural town and I have felt welcomed for a brief time, to be a part of it.
There are many fond memories I am taking with me, but my favourite will be the experience of wandering back to the residence from the studio late each night and being greeted by several of the town’s other inhabitants - the local dogs (please see my previous Blog #4 “Message in a Bottle”). Two of these particular well-known locals are “featured” in a series of paintings I have completed here; one is called “Turbo”, and the other I have named “Bella”. I noticed recently from a photo I had of Turbo that there was a huge gash in his forearm and made some inquiries as to whether I could get some help for him. As it turns out, several caring citizens had already attended to him. Turbo had been grazed by a car, and after they have made several approaches to help him (because he kept licking off the medicine and bandages), I can now report that he is happily wandering around town again with much more energy.
I was curious to discover who cares for these particular animals who are so much a part of the local character. They are obviously accepted by the people of the town, which is lovely, but how do they survive? I noticed that they are fed and watered, but who pays for their medical needs? As they have given me so much (free models!), I thought perhaps I could do something small for them. I had the opportunity to meet with the Mayor to discover if the dogs were a problem and if not, how is this town successful in taking care of them where other towns are not? (Stray and abandoned animals are apparently a huge problem in Italy).
(Note:there are still stray dogs in the area, but several have been here long enough and are fortunate enough to have been “adopted” by the townspeople. I am hoping that through awareness of the problem of strays, a solution can be found.)
It seems that three individuals here volunteer their own time and money to help these animals. That’s all it takes. And I will try and do what I can by donating 10% of any sales I make during the exhibition to the community. If I don’t make any sales then I will start a fund. I can also create some awareness through reaching both the local citizens, and visitors to Martignano who attend the exhibition.
Here’s where I step up onto the soapbox. Consider this if you will. If every artist or gallery gave a small percentage of their sales to any worthy cause, big or small, local or global, think of the difference we would make collectively. Perhaps this is how we can find a voice as a cultural power - beyond what we know we already provide to the greater good of society.
Consider it… that’s all I ask.
Weeks 4-5 @ MIRA and working steadily on the glass imagery – playing further with texture and really enjoying the process, but not the result as much now. But this is a healthy and necessary part of the artistic process, especially in this new surrounding. This is exactly why I have chosen to do a residency – to give myself the opportunity to explore other options – to play with techniques and imagery that I may not have otherwise explored. I find it frustrating that many residencies cater to only the younger emerging artists, when even established artists need to take a break from their usual work – or even have the chance to see it in a new light. MIRA has offered this, at this point in my career, and I am grateful. I am certain others share the same needs and I would highly recommend a “holiday” with your work – away from the factors that perhaps inhibit or stagnate and keep you from the luxury of going sideways that we all deserve – and need.As I said in an earlier blog, I had to leave to come back again. Where I went was sideways. I gave myself the opportunity and I have come back from this journey refreshed and looking backward and forward with renewed energy and confidence – and perhaps a theme to return to someday… but now I find Martignano has provided me with another gift that I wish to explore – or return to.
When I left Berlin on my way here in April, I had decided to focus on the theme of dogs – a subject I have painted previously, but I wanted to do a body of work – up BIG and BOLD. I had started about 8 studies, but as I started travelling I found it difficult to find opportunities for collecting imagery and there was no guarantee that I would find what I needed to continue this theme at the MIRA residency. I could have stayed with this plan but I was deteremined to try the glass idea first - to see what I could do with it and to see what it would give me – and I am glad I stuck to that plan. But having had a quick peek into the glass as a subject, I now wish to return to the dogs as a tribute to Martignano and my time here. I had no idea that Martignano would have a dozen or more local characters (dogs) to study! I never imagined that there would be dogs here (cats yes, having visited Turkey, Greece, and Croatia), but not so many stray dogs. It is definitely a problem, but I was heartened that the beautiful people of this town let them roam, feed them, put bowls of water out for them and they are part of the character of this place - a wonderful character. The animals are not as healthy as they should be, but they are gentle and seem happy. It is a lovely thing to see. Rather than putting them a shelter, this is ideal - if there is funding for the animals that are here to be spade/neutered, I think they would actually be happier. Later perhaps there might be a facility to find homes for these gorgeous animals, but the system seems to work here - at least the animals are tolerated as part of the town. I have no idea if this is unique to Martignano, but I am going to find out more. If it is a problem, would it be better to work with what already exists? I will ask the Mayor here for some history and get his comments. Perhaps this could lead to something else – who knows – but I need to follow this one.
There are 2 dogs in particular that I have come to adore. I can’t say I pet them or feed them – I actually do not want to start something in fear that it will disrupt the natural process of things – I am an outsider and I am seeing Martignano through my naïve North American / Australian experience. It is different here and I am aware that I should do my homework first before barrelling in wanting to “fix” things. I will be leaving here soon and I cannot create change but I can create awareness – or I might find that it is a symbiotic system that doesn’t require change, but just “is”.
But … these 2 dogs and I have a special and very enjoyable bond. They seem to recognise me and follow for a while. They welcome me whenever I am out. (See Blog #1 “The Art of Bus Travel”) Why me? I know it’s probably because they are just hungry, but animals have a way of communicating and these 2 have spoken to me. Gorgeous souls who have a very rough life and yet seem to be better behaved than most pets!
So I am now determined to create a tribute to them and the lovely people of this small town – and the gift is a return to my original idea, something I might not have followed had I not come to this particular place! Salute Martignano and all its inhabitants and Salute MIRA!