Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lawrence Carroll at the Correr Museum

The other day, I walked out on my balcony and was startled to see these words on a banner hanging from the top of the Rialto Bridge advertising the new art exhibit at the Correr Museum:

lawrence carroll

The reason I was startled is because I know Lawrence Carroll, and I couldn't get my mind wrapped around the fact that his show was finally happening. And how great it feels to see the name of someone you know fluttering in huge letters on the Rialto Bridge! It looks something like this:


The last time I had seen Lawrence was at my house at a party I had on New Year's Day, and he seemed remarkably calm for a man who was about to have such a major exhibit.

Then, on Thursday, Valentine's Day, I went to dinner at Masaniello over in Santo Stefano, and who should walk in but Lawrence Carroll, his wife, Lucy, and friends! I said, "Lawrence, I walked out on my balcony and saw your name." He grinned, and modestly said, "Sorry."

So, on Friday, I headed over to the opening at the Museo Correr. I was a little early, and was lucky enough to find Lawrence alone with his thoughts. I said, "Lawrence, you have done your job, and I could actually do my job and interview you." He agreed. I asked him how it felt, really, and he said, "Surreal. I feel like I am living in a dream." At age 53, Lawrence is the first living foreign artist to ever have an exhibit at the Correr. For those of you not familiar with the Correr Museum, here are some images to put things into perspective:

The large structure in the back of Piazza San Marco is the Correr. Where the banners are hanging is where Lawrence Carroll's name is now soaring over the square.
This is one section of the staircase you climb to enter the Correr. After Napoleon conquered Venice, he knocked down the Church of San Geminianoa and turned this building into a palace for kings and emperors.
I told Lawrence I would speak to him later because, of course, many people wanted to speak to him. We were having that conversation in this room:

I went up to look at the exhibit. Again, I was fortunate because the crowd was downstairs, and I was up there all alone. When I saw the artist information, I, too, suddenly felt like the whole thing was surreal. It seemed impossible that I actually live in Venice on the Grand Canal and that I can walk out on my balcony and see the name of someone I know fluttering from the Rialto Bridge. It is an incredibly humbling feeling.

Also, the journey that Lawrence made to arrive at this point is very similar to my own journey, and we are both about the same age. He was born in Australia in 1954. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1958, where he grew up. He graduated from the Art Center of Design in 1980. He moved to New Jersey in 1984, and commuted to New York City. He was so poor that he made his own frames and stretched his own canvas, or even painted on canvas that had already been used, which is how his art evolved into what it is today. He had his first important public show in 1988.

As for me, I was born in South Carolina, but grew up in New Jersey. I used to cut class and take the bus to New York City. Then I moved to Los Angeles before arriving here in Venice. So, for all you young struggling artists out there, the New Jersey-->New York City-->Los Angeles-->Venice is one route to take:) I know some people who have tried to take shortcuts, but Venice is a very tough city. She demands your soul, and a lot of people are not willing to pay that price. (After the exhibit I went over to the Mondadori book shop -- which is right next door to the Correr -- to look at my novels, just to make sure that my life was real.)

I also realized that we actually do have an artist community here in Venice, which is contemporary, vital and alive. So much for Venice being a dead city!

After the introduction by Giandomenico Romanelli, who is the Director of the civic museums in Venice, Lawrence spoke in that very room you see above. He said he was a dreamer, and had always been a dreamer, and felt deeply humbled.

Later on in the evening, I asked some Venetian waiters at the tourist restaurants below my house along the Riva del Vin (who are sort of like my family - if you want to eat along the Riva I support the one directly beneath me at 733, which has the peculiar name of "Florida") what they thought about these foreigners in their city. I asked, "Do you feel like you are being invaded with me up there on the balcony and Lawrence Carroll dangling from the Rialto Bridge?" They said, "No, not at all. We like you. You are like our aunt." (Sometimes I play music for them. I put my speakers outside on the balcony and blast opera and Vivaldi all over the Grand Canal at Rialto. They say it makes their work more pleasurable.)

While I was over at the Correr, I noticed that there are new information plaques up in Piazza San Marco describing the structures and giving a bit of history. That was another jolt -- it really makes it feel like you are living inside a museum. It is very surreal... to live 500-1000 years in the past, yet also in the present. I paused and thought: Are those information plaques a good thing? I decided, yes. Because, hopefully, when people come here now they will realize they are visiting what was once a very powerful Republic.

The Republic may only be a vibrant memory, but Venice still stands firm enough to hold a contemporary art exhibit with her ancient walls.

Ciao from Venice,
Cat

From Studio La Città: Though born in Australia and living and working in California, Carroll's work is anything but redolent of desert landscapes. [Note from Cat: Lawrence has been spending about eight months out of the year in Venice since 2004] Even his large-scale works - and some of them are very large indeed - reflect the artist's humanity and never seem intimidating. Part of this is due to his working process and his attitude to materials. His works are always based on materials already employed for some other purpose and the signs of this use are still visible: they show their own history. And yet his slow, manual working process transforms them into highly personal works, even while losing nothing of this previous life. His paint, subdued yet warm, respects the original colouring and points up the form while being immediately recognisable as that of Carroll. The new wax skin allows the earlier vicissitudes of the wood and canvas to show through, but the handling is always definitely human and controlled.
Carroll's work is anything but redolent of desert landscapes. Even his large-scale works - and some of them are very large indeed - reflect the artist's humanity and never seem intimidating. Part of this is due to his working process and his attitude to materials. His works are always based on materials already employed for some other purpose and the signs of this use are still visible: they show their own history. And yet his slow, manual working process transforms them into highly personal works, even while losing nothing of this previous life. His paint, subdued yet warm, respects the original colouring and points up the form while being immediately recognisable as that of Carroll. The new wax skin allows the earlier vicissitudes of the wood and canvas to show through, but the handling is always definitely human and controlled.


1 comment:

  1. I recently stayed in Lucca and convinced the curator of the new Lucca Contepmorary art gallery, Maurizio Vanni to give me a preview of "State of Mind" as I was flying out before the offical opening. He kindly obliged and what I saw was so beautiful that I thought I would cry!Of all the art I saw on my 3 week trip to Italy Barcelona England & Scotland, Lawrences paintings made the deepest impression. I was thrilled to realise he was born in Australia, I live in Sydney but had never heard of him I have now however done a little homework and am loving looking at his beautiful artwork. Thank you!

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