Where is Venice? Silly question you might answer. It is in Italy of course. Well, it can be. But I am going to postulate that Venice Italy is mostly in our imaginations. To demonstrate, I am going share my unscientific nine days of observations and reflections. You see, we are under rather peculiar restrictions while in this ancient city of canals. We must, for the most part, avoid frenetic crowds. To avoid dragging a snarling frothing-at-the-mouth tourist through the narrow complex pathways of Venezia, I must pick our times and our locations with care. The most noted touristy locations and activities are therefore passed over.
Though I did get a nice shot of the Canal Grande from the Ponte dell’Accademia
and the long view…
and another Canal Grande from Porte degliScalzi
Plus, there is the gondalier polishing away while waiting for riders…
and an inspired painting sketch…
oh, make that three!
and there is the laundry I showed in my last Venice post.
There are also the narrow wabi-sabi alleyways…
So far so good, we might say. It all seems to be just about what one might expect in Venice. But this is where the imagined truth begins to slip and the many faces of Venice start to show themselves in the shadows.
We know that much of Venice was built by the 1500 as it is recorded in a woodcut print by Jacopo de’ Barbari. This aging and declining beauty hosts about 50,000 tourists a day. Finding a narrow calli not streaming with a procession of guests is often a challenge. Still, amidst the frantic excitement, its swaying elegance can still be hunted down to stand alone, quiet and charming in the afternoon sun. Distant clicking of carry-on luggage fades as it is jostle over the masegni then silenced when the owner picks it up to carry it over one of the more than 450 bridges connecting the city of islands. I have two full days left of my nine in Venice. My feelings are mixed. This photograph is the city I imagined. Yet, it is only one, and often seldom seen, expression on a declining, trampled profile of romance, elegance and power. I am not sorry I came. I am not even sorry I stayed long enough to see past the glitter and shiny bobbles. I am however slightly melancholy to visit this elderly lady on her last breath being sustained by tourism, mythology and will.
Let’s take a deeper view, one where I hope to still leave this fading darling of the world with some dignity – yet let the wrinkles of time add to her story.
we are connected
Italia in Venice
or just Italia?
1776 someplace in Venice Italy
I smell a rat nearby
Who broke the nose of Venice?
and then bit off her hand!?
Is this where Venice collects herself then?
Reflections in an antique shop window Venice Italy
Or is it here in the campo Nazario Sauro?
No, I think possibly the Venice we expect can be most frequently be found on this wall…
Wandering the back alleys in search of Venice Italy, I come across a happenstance poster collage that includes Ruth Orkin’s best know photograph early 1950’s “American Girl in Italy” amongst the mix. I carefully frame the collage within its original context and then edit the photograph to become a new image, a new work of art which emerges as a study of this earlier piece. There are bits of debris, wrinkles and wear showing on the paper. A piece of the brick wall is showing through the plastered images. Nothing is quite straight and true. There is more nostalgia than truth and this is Venice in April 2014.
More about “American Girl in Italy” can be found on a post written by her daughter at Ruth Orkin’s Archives:
Such a small cup Venice!
Yet, siblings can be seen looking at something from a bridge in Venice just above the daily beer delivery.
Canals are as much for heading to work in Venice
as they are for gondaliering.
Such gondola pride…
as they pass the open storage door.
and the practical posts at the edge of the canals.
The fancy ones are over in the Cannaregio district where the streets are wider, quieter and maybe not so interesting…
It is where Venetians live. It is where your coffee is only drank with milk before 11:00 am and the restaurants are mostly closed from 3:00 in the afternoon to 6:30 in the evening. It is where the boat with fresh fish makes a special stop before going to the larger open market over by the Rialto Bridge. It is where a small boy can through a plastic pop bottle in the canal and no one takes any notice. Still, just like the rest of Venice, the sorted refuse and recyclables will be hung out between six and eight in the morning where they will be picked up and trudged to the edge of the canals to be hauled away before the tourist day begins.
Who is this Venice with such a notorious reputation for love, superb expresso and fish that can sold in a restaurant for 13 euros a 100 grams – with the head still attached?
Who is this Venice behind these many masks?
Shuttered more often than not, she gives few clues…
As I make my way up and down the old marble stairs of our apartment again and again in the Santa Croce district,
as I reach for one old door handle after another,
and the city’s church bells swing a resistant ring against the graffiti walls…
I ask – where is Venice?
Then it rains. Sidewalks pool with water.
Canals welcome droplets as if being caressed awake from a deep sleep.
The passageways empty and leave the heavy light to a photographer on her knees. He brushes the red clay that is caked to the shoulder of her shirt where she leaned steady against the wall.
Darkness comes and still they walk – umbrella to umbrella, touching lightly on the delicate underbelly of exposed skin that is Venice. He asks what she is doing. She says she would like to frame those lights there, the ones dancing on the water. But she doesn’t. Instead, they keep walking, passed where the hustlers have packed up their purses and glow sticks, and passed where the usual sound of rolling carry-on luggage is louder than laughter and past where a couple is having difficulty deciding which restaurant they should go to for dinner.
Damp and satisfied, she leads them past the couple, and up the three flights of stairs to their apartment, opens a bottle of cheap red wine and makes sandwiches on white buns with local cheese for a late supper.
Early the next morning, there is Venice, waiting on the street for the garbage to be collected. A Venice that knows she can order a standing up espresso for a euro at the bakery where she will buy only what bread is needed for breakfast. About then – the light is just so! The masks fall from her imaginary vision and she says…
I am ready to say good morning to you Venice. I am willing to say I am in love with your many faces.
Only now, it is time to say good-bye – a long goodbye like that of Katharine Hepburn in Summertime (1955)
Venice, I think you will surprise me again.
Tomorrow, I shall be packed. It will be time for this humble artist to stow away her work and leave only her impressions behind.
Where is YOUR Venice? What one of her many faces do you love most?
Note: The painting sketches and some of these photographs are now available for purchase at my Redbubble Storefront.
© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.
Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.
Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch
From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada
For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com