Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Venice – Giudecca: At Home with Laura de Santillana

Venice – Giudecca:  At Home with Laura de Santillana. When not travelling, for work and exhibitions, Laura de Santillana is at home on the Giudecca Island of Venice, in the huge loft space especially designed to hold her vast collection of books. It is here that the renowned and esteemed artist, who works primarily in glass, not only puts up her feet to enjoy a good book but also works on projects, when the “acqua alta” prevents her from crossing the canal to her studio. It is here, placed around the loft, that one can see her sculptures, which she makes with maestro glass blowers from all over the world according to the technique she wants to use (or depending on the project she wants to make); from Murano to the Czech Republic to the United States. This year has been very busy with a major exhibition in Venice, one in Japan and now Vienna, which just opened. On her next trip, before Christmas, she will be a judge for a glass competition in the USA. Not surprisingly when back home she likes to curl up and relax. But traveling is necessary for her mental and emotional health, she says. She cannot stay quiet too long.
Above. Laura de Santillana with the tip of her Mountains sculpture 2010-2011, made at Museum of Glass for the Scapes exhibition, 2012.  Laura is the granddaughter of Paolo Venini, founder of the legendary Venini glassworks in Murano. Today, she is completely at ease in any furnace and remembers as a small child going to the Venini glassworks. “I remember the floors squeaking when we ran from one room to the other and the office upstairs that was our grandfathers and then our fathers…it was a very fascinating place.” She recalls. “But, the furnace was the place that really captured my fantasy, the fire and the molten glass, and the noise and the smell of glass.”

photograph by Manfredi Bellati

Books – On two floors, long bookcases house Laura’s vast collection of books; poetry, travel books, Simenon’s Maigret stories, books on Indian culture and religion, books on myths, good novels of all kinds, Japanese literature, from Genji to Murakami etc., etc.  
Below. On the shelf of the Vietti table, in the background, a candleholder made of a painted shell held by a bronze Chinese man.  The loft space is decorated with a soft mix of oriental, antique, modern and mid-century pieces.  “Reading is part of myself as much as breathing. I don’t remember when I first started to love books; I would say that it is a virus than runs in our family. Reading can take you somewhere else as much, or more than travels. I usually read at night in bed.” She explains.

Art - Big Flats Yellow – 2013 - exhibited in Paris at Galerie l’Arc en Seine in October 2013 but made in Mukilteo, north of Seattle; behind the sculpture, bronze and wax forms. Laura’s sculptures start as bubbles or as cylinders “…a big bubble, I am shaping it, squeezing it, squaring it until it gets to the right size and proportion. That means that before I start I have to give the maestro glassblower precise instructions, as to height, form, color, sequence and thickness…we discuss the process before we start. In this case, I don’t need to draw, it's a process that I have been doing for quite a long time with maestro Simone Cenedese and American maestro Jim Mongrain, we communicate in very simple language, as there is no time to explain when you are in the middle of the working process.” she says.

Memories - Leaning on the bookcase is a painting by Spadini, which she inherited from her Venini grandparents, next to it is Laura’s Big Meteor sculpture, 2009, blown at the Museum of Glass (MoG), Tacoma, and exhibited in the 3 Visions in Glass exhibition starting at the Barry Friedman Gallery in New York, and then traveling to museums in the US and in Europe.
photographs courtesy Laura de Santillana
Art - A Wax Big Flats sculpture 2013, is placed on chairs in front of a specially designed glass-case, which like a bookcases houses a series of sculptures, it “acts” as a kind of repository of memories. “The chairs are designed by Bob Wilson, who is my collector of mine and we exchanged works.”

Art - On the raised platform of the loft, next to the big window and balcony, which overlooks a garden, a futon daybed is placed next to Laura's Cosmic Eggs sculptures, designed for the Scapes exhibition, Museum of Glass, MoG, Tacoma 2012, leaning on the wall a big drawing of a chandelier by Martinuzzi for a Venini. 

Memories – “Mon Bonheur is the title of this garland of jasmine flowers from an Indian trip to Madurai, behind it on the lacquer tray by Tohru Matsuzaki, are some small objects I collected during various trips. My trips take me mainly to Asia: India, Japan. I would love to visit Iran.  When I can, I like to visit Egypt, and Cairo is a city I like very much. Tulips are flowers I love, but I really don’t have a favorite flower.” On the left, Laura de Santillana’s Cosmic Eggs sculptures.

 photograph by Manfredi Bellati

Art - Laura de Santillana - Black Heads, 2009 to current. “The idea to start working on the Heads sculptures came to me from an exhibition I saw in Paris at the Musee Cernuschi. It was a show of Chinese Buddha heads and it was only the heads because in China during the Cultural Revolution they destroyed all the images of the gods but they couldn’t destroy the heads as they represent the container of thought, so they hid them…  It was after this exhibition that I started working on Heads sculptures.” Laura explains.
Below. Indian felt from Jain temple, is used here to protect and hide the Heads sculptures.

 photograph by Manfredi Bellati

Art - Working sketches for Heads sculptures.

Entertaining -  With Laura, old time friend, dealer Barry Friedman. “We worked together from 1996 until this year, when he closed his gallery in Chelsea, New York.”

Entertaining - Minimal design black plates from Sabbie e Nebbie near Goldoni’s house in Venice are placed on Thai silk tablemats; the glasses are designed by Laura and produced in Murano.

Food – Typical Venetian vegetables, Braised Artichoke Hearts Stuffed with Local Shrimp from the lagoon.  Laura buys her fruit and vegetables at the small local weekly Sacca Fisola market on the Giudecca.

Food - Pumpkin Sherbet with Whipped Cream, sits on a plate depicting a V for Venini, the plates were specially designed by Piero Fornasetti for nonno Paolo and nonna Ginette Venini.

beloved Mau



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