I produced this collection in my family’s ceramic factory in Nove, Italy—a small town between Venice and the Dolomites where my grandfather was born. Drawing on memories of the Venetian stories that my grandparents told me as I grew up, this collection of sculptures collides elements of the narratives as if trying—and failing—to recreate the same arc. The attempt to bring back my grandparents’ voices, to remember those stories exactly as they were, is as futile as turning dust back into stone.
Coming to Nove, I felt that I had emerged into Bertilla and Onorino’s stories, somehow even more fantastical for all of the land’s layered memories: the WWII bullet holes that mark the factory walls; the passion flowers that climb the walls inside my grandmother’s childhood home. The place was real all along, but now it was my time to find adventure. In a sense, this was my grandparents’ last gift to me—an end turning into a beginning.
Each work is based on stories or images of Italy that Bertilla and Onorino told me as a child.
In Firefly, a tower-like form sits on a wooden pedestal, surrounded by small lights. As a child, my grandmother Bertilla would catch fireflies in a jar and use this improvised light to run through the fields at night. Many years later, when I first came to Nove, I visited the house that she grew up in. As the sun set, I looked into the abandoned structure and found it full of fireflies, like something out of imagination. In the sculptural installation, the chimney at the center of the lights refers to the hearth as a place for sharing warmth and stories.
When Bertilla was young, she would help with household chores like washing the laundry in the nearby river, scrubbing and cleaning the sheets in the shallows. One day, she misjudged the current and the river tore the cloth from her hand, sweeping it swiftly downstream. I like to imagine that the sheet fled fish-like all the way to Venice and the sea. River Fish recreates this narrative, perforating a piece of fabric, painted with natural black powder mixed with rabbit skin glue, with fish-like scales and tethering it in the stream behind my uncle’s ceramics factory in Nove.
Curtain sketches the contours of a window frame in thin metal rods and cloth. Before they married, Onorino would bicycle an hour to visit Bertilla in Breganze. When they said goodbye again, Bertilla would run up to her bedroom window—which faced the direction of Onorino’s hometown, Nove—and would wave her handkerchief as he rode off. Every so often, he would look over his shoulder to see her still waving. This piece reconstructs this image with fabric from Bonotto, a fabric factory founded in 1912 and based in Breganze.
Other works from this collection all have a story attached to them: