(The Senses of Italy)
“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life,” proclaimed Ukraine-born poet Anna Akhmatova, and a trio of Asheville artists who visited Italy together in December 2021 wholeheartedly agree. They were so inspired by the trip they want to convey the experience in a group show, which features paintings by Mark Bettis and Philip DeAngelo and ceramic art by Michael Hofman.
These three River Arts District artists, who are friends and studio neighbors in the Wedge Building, visited Rome, Florence, and Venice and were blown away by the art, architecture, history — and, being foodies who like to cook, la deliziosa cucina and il vino seducente. They jointly curated the show, but DeAngelo jokes that he’s hosting it in his studio because “It’s good to have an Italian name on the door.”
In all seriousness, he adds, “We wanted to celebrate our time in Italy, and after being unable to have shows like this for a long time because of COVID, we want to start having more events and social experiences.”
He says texture was the theme that emerged most strongly in the exhibit. Bettis – whose paintings are often characterized by expressive layers and bold textures — likewise recalls that he was “mesmerized by the colors and textures of Italy.” Hofman was so moved by the Roman brickwork that it formed the basis for his recent body of work in progress. “Not only is it easy to get lost in Italy’s winding streets and narrow alleys,” he emphasizes, “but [to] also get lost in time.”
As DeAngelo observes, “The cobblestone streets are thousands of years old and the ancient Roman bricks are wider and thinner than what we’re accustomed to — more like tiles — but thousands of years later those buildings are still standing. People still live in them. Can you imagine? I mean, my studio is in a building that was built 106 years ago, and I say that reverently. But after visiting Italy, it sounds ridiculous.
“Italy is a magical place you don’t really get out of your head,” he adds, “and I’m always daydreaming about it and figuring out how I can go back there.”
Philip DeAngelo Studio 115 Roberts St., Asheville River Arts District. philipdeangeloart.com. 828-989-5464.