The greatest summer of my life (before I fell in love with my husband, which has created several back to back awesome summers) was the one I spent studying art history in Italy. Oh my. So yes, at one point I was very fresh on art history, thankfully inheriting maybe 40% of my father's ability to remember dates and places. I loved it. A couple of spectacular professors at CU got me into the nerdiest things, like Greek vase painting, the Edo period, and yes, even Renaissance art. My dear friend had just spent a semester in Cortona through UGA, and was considering staying through the summer, and well, the rest as they say...
Cortona is a town from one's imagination. Walled, medieval, and placed defensively on the tip top of a hill overlooking the Val di Chiana, Cortona holds a few main piazzas and some of the prettiest limestone buildings and charming cafes a dreamer could conjure up. With stunning views that stretch all the way across the valley to other small hilltop towns and Lago Trasimeno, it's simply a slice of heaven. Just like their pizza. Speaking of which, I did gain 20 pounds that summer. Severini, the futurist artist, and Signorelli, the early Renaissance master both were born there, so the town has some pretty impressive art for its size. A kooky cast of characters made up the 40 some odd students and professors on the trip, and needless to say we had a ridiculous amount of fun and probably enough wine to last a lifetime. The group took trips to Roma, Venezia, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples, Firenze, and nearby Arezzo, where they filmed a good portion of Life is Beautiful. We watched movies al fresco in English on Wednesday nights, walked to beautiful Les Celles (what a tiny bed St. Francis slept on!), flirted, laughed, danced, ate the most amazing meals followed by too many gelatos, and only barely made it up some of the seemingly vertical hills. I took watercolor, slept in a breezy bell-ringing convent, studied Vasari, and fell in love with Italy.
When I think back on that summer, I realize how very privileged I am to have experienced such a carefree and luxurious time. I also appreciate fully how it shaped the way I look at art and design: the mystique and je ne sais quoi that makes something beautiful is as much feeling as it is physicality.
The more I grow in my career, the more I appreciate the abstract. It might sound new-agey, but I listen to rooms, I hear what they tell me, feel the density of the air and mood, and uncover what they were meant to be. Italy is full of vibe and mood and directs your way of life in the most natural sense. You eat outside, you walk a lot, you window shop, you enjoy a view, you appreciate art, you have a deep-rooted sense of past. It just goes that way. To create a vibe like that- natural, simple, beautiful and rhythmic- that is what defines good style and design, and therefore good living. That is what I strive for in my design, wherever the context and translation of that may take me. Thousands of years of cultural development and revision can't be too off course, right?