The public workshop went well and included about 30 visitors that night to have molds of their hands made or to be part of the photo project. With the molds from that evening I was able to create an installation for the final exhibit on June 29th that consisted of plaster castings of hands hung on the wall in the Add'u Padizzu, otherwise known as the Grande Catoio. The Add'u Padizzu is a large building that was often used for weddings and other large social events (when they used to be frequent in Monasterace). Before that it was owned by a family and was their "Catoio" or food storage area, like a root cellar although it is not underground. Now it lays vacant most of the time. It seemed that the people were happy to see it occupied with art and were especially interested in finding their own hands, lining theirs up with the sculpture to determine which was their own. The show will be up for another month or so and then the pieces will move to the Museo della Civilta Contandina, the Museum of Farming. I am excited to see this as the permanent home for the installation, as many of the people whose hands were molded are farmers, masons, and other laborers. Below is a pic from the show as well as a close up of one of my favorite farmer's hands, Andrea.
In addition to the exhibition in Add'u Padizzu, I had an open studio to showcase the photos that will be included in the book. Everyone was really excited to see the pictures and some tugged at my heart strings enough that I gave many away to the people there. I will be very happy to send them a few copies of the book as well once finished. I've included an image of the show in the studio as well as some of my favorite people from the town's images. Some people who I had been trying to get participation from since the beginning surprised me by coming to the show, looking around, and then turning to me and asking to be a part of it. As one of the younger locals said, "This is important work", and when people saw all of the photos together I think they too realized that this is a document of their community and they should participate.
I have so much more to say about my experience there and my heart is heavy to leave. The people are lonely, curious, and direct in their questions, and did not hesitate to ask me when I will return. I have much to process internally and there were many questions that arose for me there. What it means to be old, the effects of emigration, what things are truly important in life (i.e. no one cared about my job or city that I lived in, only how many children I had), and perhaps the most important question - how to maintain grace and dignity through hardship, loneliness, and the omnipresence of death and loss around you. In any case, I can't thank you enough as my backers for helping me to do this project. I have been convinced by many that it is worth the time and struggle to find a proper publisher for the book and to perhaps even find a local Monasterace writer for an introduction (I have several leads). So in that case, the rewards could take a bit longer than originally thought but I'll be sure to keep you all up to date.
Also, I will be pursuing other exhibition opportunities for the photos and related work I already have in mind in the U.S. Almost all of the people in Monasterace that were photographed asked me if it will be shown in the United States and were beyond exited about the prospect. I believe they see it as a way to travel, and a promise that perhaps some of the people who left them may know that they are still there, persisting.
With that I leave you with a final photo of Dominico "Il Curioso" Tedesco, whose hopeful eyes, endless gifts of lemons and arugula, and cheery demeanor never fail to bring me a smile.