Paola piled all three of us into her little white car to take us to the Accademia di Belle Arti in Lecce. The main part of the school is housed in a late 1500s, early 1600s former Dominican convent.
Its director, prof. arch. Giacinto Leone, beamed at me when we were introduced. Immagina! his wife's name also happens to be Elvira. So in this world there exists one Elvira Leone and one Elvira Cordileone.
Dottore Leone, a great big affable fellow, seems to be a can-do sort of man, which strikes me as unusual for an Italian. They so love their bureaucracy here. Something about him commanded immediate respect. a
Paola approached him about setting up a connection between the academy and the visual artists that come to stay at MIRA. She was hoping he'd be open to the idea of allowing them to exhibit their work in Nov.at the end of their stay in the Martignano residence.
Not only was D. Leone amenable to the idea (he did explain, sweet man, that his board would have to be notified, and apologized that it would have to be done in stages, as per protocol) he also suggested he could facilitate a monthly open house between MIRA's international artists and the academy. (Barbara is from the U.S., Shay from Israel and a photographer, Frances, arrives from New Zealand tomorrow).
This man really believes in openness.
He's a busy guy, is D. Leone. Even so he escorted our little troop to every department in the academy. He offered explanations and context.
We went to painting labs, sculpture labs, theatrical scene-building labs and restoration labs. Except for the restoration students, though, the studios were empty. Most don't start until November.
One gigantic studio, with ceilings some 50 feet high, was overrun with paintings big and small. Student works rested on easels, leaned against each other on the floor and hung on vast expanses of walls between glorious windows.
Mary Angelastri, a professor of art history, who also accompanied us, ushered me to one side to point out a particular work: It was a triptych done in tones of rey, and evoked a sense of quiet but desperate sadness. The first panel showed an open door whose light play on an expanse of grey stone floor. The second depicts a woman sitting at simple table. A chair beside her has a bright red piece of fabric draped over it -- the only shred of colour in the whole piece. In the last panel, a half-dressed woman lies on a couch, one foot resting on the stone floor.
A recently restored area to be used as exhibit space.
One of the painting labs
The sculpture lab
Crumbling buildings attached to the academy will be restored for its use
Students work on mosaics
A student painting