While this week’s cover artist, Nicky Gioia Mitchell, has painted local scenes in both her native Italy and her adopted America, there is a similarity between them: a sense of serenity and silence. (Mitchell claims there’s more silence in Italian landscape). The subjects might even be the same. Consider boats sitting by the edge of the sea, for example.
Yet her Italian settings feature a style that’s more “primitive,” often with houses on a slant or diagonal. Not so with the images that romanticize Mitchell’s Water Mill surroundings: beaches and farm houses are seen at eye-level, roofs are rectangular.
As this week’s cover demonstrates, the style is somewhat impressionistic, the water glistens, people are in the distance. Viewers feel as if they are voyeurs, actually sitting under an umbrella, watching the sea. We sense, however, that it is the artist herself who is really the voyeur.
Q: I love your Italian paintings. When you were there the last time, did you do any paintings or sketches?
A: No. I just looked at the beauty of Italy. You can’t go home again. But I do miss the cypress trees in Florence. When I go there I get nostalgic. But Italy doesn’t belong to me. I live here in Water Mill.
Q: But your memories are important. After all, you are writing a memoir.
A: I am writing the memoir so my memories won’t get blurred. I don’t want to let them go.
Q: You have lived here for 32 years, first visiting during the 1970s so I understand that it’s your home, but you were born and raised in Italy.
A: Yes, in Florence. I had my first exhibit when I was eight years old in Florence. I also lived in Brussels and New York.
Q: What attracted you to Water Mill?
A: The beaches. They are unique. One of the seven wonders. They are poetic.
Q: How about the beaches of the Caribbean? Pure white sand, blue water.
A: They are like postcards. I like the emptiness of our beaches, the cloud formations, groups of people far away.
Q: What attracted you to America, generally?
A: It has a different character than Italy. America is more dynamic. Time is different also. In Italy, it’s “Tomorrow is another day.” When you are here, you do something right away. I switch back and forth. When I am in Italy, I do what Italians do, as far as putting things off.
Q: What do you miss about the past as far as this area goes?
A: I miss the 1980s, the era of the galleries here and New York. I miss when there was no technology. When communication was direct. I need contact, like opening a real book and turning the pages. It’s a different world now.
Q: Speaking of changes, do you ever consider changing your subjects or medium?
A: I am very faithful to my subjects. The enormous beaches, the countryside, the farm houses, the back roads
Q: Would you change where you live?
A: I lived in Arizona for 10 years. It was beautiful there, one-of-a-kind scenes: Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon. The sound of silence. But it doesn’t appeal to me. I love the beaches here. I can never get enough. I cherish them.
Contact Mitchell via e-mail: [email protected].