“The curator was wanting to debunk the theory of women going to Italy because they’ve had a life crisis, and they go into this space where they lose their inhibitions and fall in love – perpetuated by books like Room with a View and Eat, Pray, Love,” says Danaca Ackerson, adding that people still have the romantic notion that women travel alone, fall in love, lose themselves and/or find themselves.
Ackerson’s collection, Botticelli Remix, is one of three currently on display as part of Voyages: Three Women visit Italy exhibition at the Italian Cultural Centre, running Oct. 13, 2016 to Jan. 14, 2017.
Ackerson, who has visited Italy three times, says her experience has been different each time. The first time she traveled with her daughter, and the two did an art pilgrimage.
“As an artist, I find that very interesting. We took a night train to Venice, we looked at a lot of art and hung out and got a sense of how Italians lived – we stayed in a non-touristy area,” says Ackerson.
Her second trip to Italy was for an artist residency. She says these residencies are a chance to get away from the demands of life and focus on art.
“I was also at a crossroads; ‘where am I going, what am I doing with my art?’ They say that artists should make art about what they know, but I don’t want to make art about what I know; I’m sick of what I know; I want to go to Italy,” says Ackerson about her decision to do the residency.
Ackerson is influenced by Botticelli, an Italian Renaissance painter famous for such works as The Birth of Venus and Portrait of a Young Woman.
She first got the idea for the Botticelli Remix while listening to a CBC radio program about remixing songs.
“I’ve never heard of it [remix]in painting and I thought I want to do something that involves the new and old together,” Ackerson says.
Shared interest in colours
Joanne Hastie’s work will also be in Voyages. Like Ackerson, she uses many colours in her art, and she also experienced an artist residency. “In exchange for painting a wall mural in the town of Graniti, I got accommodation and art supplies. It was a mural project to beautify the town of 400 and bring more people to this place,” Hastie says.
The self-taught artist comes from a family of engineers and Hastie herself was working as a mechanical engineer before she began to focus on art.
“My father would see me drawing and sketching all the time and mechanical engineering would have a lot of drawing and designing. It was an easy progression from the art world I was doing for fun to the engineering world,” Hastie says.
Hastie’s connection to the Italian Cultural Centre comes from her three years of taking Italian
“In my previous work as an engineer, I was working with some Italian companies and after sitting through a three hour meeting in Italy, in Italian, I wanted to learn how to speak Italian,” she explains.
Hastie describes her work as cityscapes and landscapes of Sicily
and Italy; 14 pieces will be displayed in Voyages, four of which were sketched on location.
“People might be surprised by my lack of vocabulary in the colour wheel because I don’t have that technical background, but I use a lot of colour in my work,” says Hastie.
She also mentions the special connection some people have with her artwork; for some viewers, the scenes look familiar even if they are of foreign places.
“I enjoy connecting with people on their memories especially because I don’t paint detail in my larger pieces, they might tell me a story they haven’t told anyone in a long time because the art evoked the memory. I enjoy that connection of place,” she explains.
Hastie was told about art residencies by Carol McQuaid, the third artist in Voyages, which
inspired her to do a residency of her own.
“All of our [three] different experiences from our extended stay in Italy have their own styles but the story behind [them] is similar,” says Hastie.
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