Everyday Italian

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Ran Barnaclo

Antonio Adams

Leigh Cooney

Robert McFate

Lindsey Whittle
Thunder-Sky, Inc. has curated a portfolio of works for ”Cincinnati Dreams Italy,” a show of paintings, sculptures and photographs by local artists in association with the Taft Museum’s exhibit of George Inness’s Italian landscapes.  School Amici‘s Kathy Holwadel has spearheaded this great event.  Gallery spaces will be scattered throughout the Lytle Park neighborhood (where the Taft is located) in historic buildings, many not usually open to the public.  Open weekends October 8–25. 11 a.m. to -5 p.m. 
Our part of this gig is called “Spaghetti Western” and features:  Antonio Adams, Robert McFate, David Rizzo, Emily Bicknaver, Bill Ross, Dale Jackson, Mike Weber, Keith Banner, Kristen Vinci, Lindsay Whittle, Ervin Henderson, Ran Barnaclo, Brian Joiner, Leigh Cooney, Todd M. Coe, and Spencer van der Zee.  “Spaghetti Western” will be located at 400 Pike Street, next door to the Taft.  We’ll be part of a preview 6 to 9 pm on October 6, and the actual opening is October 7, 2011.
Below is info about “Spaghetti Western.”

Kathy Holwadel came to us with an idea earlier this summer about pulling together an unconventional, Italy-inspired set of works by artists associated with Thunder-Sky, Inc. So we put out the word to artists we’ve shown the past two years at our space in Northside. Many of the artists are from around here, including Antonio Adams, Dale Jackson, Emily Brandehoff, Spencer van der Zee, Ran Barnaclo, Mike Weber, Britni Bicknaver, Bill Ross, Lindsey Whittle, Kristen Vinci… Some aren’t:  Todd M. Coe from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Leigh Coonery from Canada, and Robert McFate from Tennessee.

We spoke to these artists about how they “viewed” Italy through the lens of pop culture mostly, and the responses came through pieces like Antonio Adams’ “Tony and the Italian Mobsters,” a hilarious grab-bag of pop-culture images and associations ranging from “Jersey Shore” to “The Godfather.” Britni Bicknaver’s working on a visual “tribute” to Rick Steves, the NPR tourist guru. Lindsay Whittle has done a homage to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, whose sir-names come from famous Italian artists (Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello). Tennessee folk artist Robert McFate contibutes three pieces, ranging from a portrait of Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars to a cardboard relief sculpture dedicated to his favorite local pizza joint to a tabletop board-game based on “Rocky.” Mike Weber has a done a sculptural tribute to the ultimate Italian/American gourmet merger: “the personal pan pizza.” Bill Ross and Emily Brandehoff have collaborated on a homage to Italian horror movie directors like Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Leigh Cooney calls himself a “folk pop artist,” and his vision of the cultural-touchstone Italian masterpiece by Leonardo DaVinci transforms the mysterious Renaissance smile into the overanxious grin of the pharmaceutical 21st Century: a Mona Lisa for the “bipolar age.” “Mona Lisa” has been reinvented by a lot of artists and ad agencies, but Leigh seems to be referencing mustachioed Marcel-Duchamp mischief just as much as the actual masterpiece itself. Most of the art we’ve chosen is like that: referencing Italy through the funhouse mirror of cultural appropriation. It’s like a little weird survey of what Italy “means” to Everyday America.

Most of the artists in “Spaghetti Western” probably haven’t ever been to Italy literally, so their configurations of Italy’s influence aren’t about authenticity or tourism, but about what “Italy” means to their imaginations through TV, books, movies, art, and fastfood. “Spaghetti Western” is more about responses to representations than about creating representations of actual Italian places and cultures. The unconventional art and artists we’ve pulled together investigate Italy through what we often take for granted as “pop culture,” that steady stream of imagery and language and symbols coming through the TV, internet, and strip-malls.

George Inness’ depiction and love of Italy is like the jumping-off point for us to look at the way that love and depiction work themselves out in everyday American life: from Pizza Hut to Francis Ford Coppola, from Rick Steves to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These images and influences are part of how any culture, including Cincinnati, often “dreams” Italy.

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