The Fine Arts of Festa Italiana
The thundering vibrations of the finale’ of the Bartolotta Fireworks displays exploded over Milwaukee’s lakefront as thousands watched in awe at their brilliance lighting up the night sky. Our bodies shook, our minds were bedazzled, our joy was as explosive as those cannon like sounds booming one after the other so rapidly as one would think the very soil from which they rose would raise the island from it nestled place in Lake Michigan. And yet all became quiet as the visitors to Festa Italiana, 2011 dispersed toward the various stages which were still hosting talent brought in from around our nation and beyond.
For me it was a time to reflect on the four days of celebrating the contributions of immigrants who streamed in from Italy and brought to our shores a culture filled with faith, music, dance, song, literature and art in its various forms, just to mention the most prominent ones exhibited at Festa. After all I was the grandson of one of those who come to Lady Liberty’s shores seeking a brighter future for their yet unborn children. So this celebration of heritage had a special poignant meaning for me, especially since I was now a part of it. There I was settled in the Cultural Area of the Festa grounds in the Fine Arts Tent where the music of Italian Cinema filtered across each of the artists who had come to share their creative genius with Mid-West America and beyond. For I was privileged to talk with hundreds of those visitors, some from Mexico City, others from New York and of course many from the Windy City of Chicago, my birthplace and family home, and even from my current home in Burlington, WI. From Madison to Mukwonago, Milwaukee to Minnesota, England to Italy (that’s right: they came from across the pond to Festa) I had the joy of sharing my legendary tale of my new novel: The Stone Cutter Genius.
But now as the last of the illuminations twinkled in the black of night, I returned to the Fine Arts area and looked around at my colleagues who came with such artistic imagination and talent so as to leave me in wonder and awe at their works of art. As I did so, I noticed Maria of Monticello, Iowa (www.gifts4u.com) who just happened to be my neighbor back in Oak Park, IL when I was a lad but never knew it. Now here she was creating original painted art on glass ornaments and displaying her pottery works ranging from amusing fish bird houses to exquisite jars and cups. And all of this with the help of her daughter, Angela, was done in the most humble manner filled with a friendly smile with words of welcome. As my eyes moved along the sprawling tent they came to rest on a man whom I could only describe as a Michelangelo. For Eugene of Orlandini Studios is a sculptor. He was working on a magnificent piece cast in plaster. It was a bust of a Native American Chief. The strength, courage and vibrancy shown by his work is quite dazzling to this writer who stood mesmerized before the statue of the David by Michelangelo in Florence, Italy.
Right across the way from the gleaming white art pieces of Orlandini are the original paintings and jewelry pieces by Mary Anne and Yvonne of Bad Dog Studio. There was one painting called “Sanctuary.” Since I sat across from this stunning work, I noticed how it changed with the shifting light. It almost seemed to glow, like the Sistine Chapel with its vibrant colors which Michelangelo used to depict creation, this painting for me was an explosion of life force and nature.
In my tale of Michelangelo there is mentioned that he did not ordinarily design jewelry pieces except possibly for Victoria Colonna with whom he had a passionate friendship. So as I looked at Donna, of Girly Girl Baubles and Beads, working with such precision, focus and creativity on her jewelry pieces, I could not help think how the master artist probably did the same thing as he created that special gift.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? In my tale I spin a story of how the various works of Michelangelo are brought together for an exhibit. Well here in the Fine Arts area of Festa Italiana one is amazed to see the talented work of artists of all kinds. Thus, as I look over to Paula of Paula’s Pallette painting original art on aprons and those canvas bags getting so popular these days I am again reminded of the talent that surrounds me as were my characters in my book. From paint we quickly come upon two types of sculpting. Brian of Belli Furniture Works is from Oak Creek. His creations in wood are astounding and seeing him actually create them is even more impressive. Across from him is Val of V. L. Schleicher Sculptures LLC. She is working in clay, sculpting a floral piece which is a vision of flowers flowing across a broad leaf. Already breathtaking even before it’s fired and colored. It is fantastic to behold. Next to her is Linda of “Glass Fusion” whose art in glass reminds one of Venice. Her colorful and unique pieces range from serving dishes to wall art which reminds me of a new twist to Mosaic art.
There are photographic art pieces as well throughout the exhibits of the artists, many showing the awesome views of Italy such as the doors of the Duomo of Florence or the pillars lining the Sacra Via in Rome which also happen to be important parts of my tale in The Stone Cutter Genius. Val, Paula and Debra (Stubbe Burkart Studios) have outstanding photographic art to share.
I am a lad with wide eyed wonder as I finally come to the last of the artists, who like me is a writer. He is a newly wed who recently received his Master’s in History and created a book which in story telling form presents “Milwaukee’s Italian Heritage.” Tony Zignego is like a young Michelangelo setting his sites on his creative vision but not in stone rather his is on paper.
“Ah, this is what Festa Italiana is all about,” I reflected. It’s the culture, contributions to civilization, joy of its music as demonstrated by the Tenor Matt Morgan or Broadway actor Anthony Crivello to mention just two of the wonderful entertainers at Festa. Of course one cannot live on music and art alone. Thus we cannot forget to mention Italy’s delicious foods featured throughout grounds. But most of all we cannot forget our faith heritage as shown in the Our Lady of Pompeii exhibit of sacred art and celebrated at the Festa Mass on its last day. The procession of holy images and Italian societies came in sight of the Fine Arts Area and reflected for me why we have expressive art in literature, painting, sculpture, architecture and glass in the first place. That is to bring out the glory of the human spirit as a gift from God. And Festa Italiana does that with joy and love.
(Arthur Cola is the author of three novels: The Stone Cutter Genius, The Shamrock Crown (Legend of Excalibur) and Papa and the Leprechaun King and screenplays based on his books. His book for children: Papa and the Gingerbread Man and all his works are available at http://www.amazon.com/arthurcola and http://www.studios.amazon.com/arthurcola. He will be a guest author at the 44th Annual American Italian Historical Conference in Tampa, FL from Oct. 20-22 and at Festa Italiana, Washington, D.C. on Oct. 9. Readers may view his book trailer on Facebook, Twiiter or youtube and become his friend).