B. Amore, DeIorio Triptych: Family Stories, 1998; wood, tin, photo, mixed media, family artifacts, 41 x 72 x 10 inches. Photo: Tad Merrick

Introduction

Italianità is the essence of being Italian. It’s what defines us as a culture: food and family, making things, making do, and the art, music and literature that belongs not just to us but to the world, all of which permeates the boot that juts into the Mediterranean and extends throughout the diaspora. Although Italy itself deals with political and economic issues that drive a wedge between North and South, Italianità is a uniter. Here in the United States, we embrace our Italianità, our Italianness, even as we are fully American. 

I have invited 73 artists—most Italian American, but a few from throughout the Italian Diaspora—to contribute to this post, curious to know how their culture relates to their art. On a personal level, I was curious how their stories relate to my own. What I found is that every story is different but similar, a warp of shared experience that supports a fabric woven with unique weft threads. Although we don’t identify as “Italian American visual artists,” preferring to focus on genre, aesthetic, or medium, our ethnicity informs us, sometimes in ways we are still discovering. We are painters and sculptors as well as photographers, filmmakers, and animators. We are women and men, gay and straight, spanning an age range from Boomer to Millennial — descendants, for the most part, of the Mezzogiorno, that beautiful land blessed by the sun yet unable to sustain the hopes and dreams of the people who tried desperately to eke a life from it.

Emmigration to l’ameriga was our grandparents' way out. Our connections to the Old Country remain strong, especially through the traditions we absorbed and the language—usually dialect—that so many of us grew up hearing, perhaps spoke. For others it’s a deep connection to geography, architecture, and history acquired through travel and study in Italy.  


The two worlds continue to be united as successive generations make the voyage here. Now it's a relatively quick trip, with numerous back and forths in a lifetime.

You can ready my essay, Two Worlds/Due Mondi, in Part 3 but let’s begin with the artists’ work and words.                                                                                                             --Joanne Mattera

Part 1: Immigration and Traditions from the Old Country

The artists in this section are inspired by immigration, the Italian langiuage, making things, making do, folklore, and spirituality. The experience of growing up Italian American has informed not only who we are but the work we make.

Lisa Zukowski, Bundles, 2016, mixed media, dimensions variable

Brian Alterio

David Ambrose

B. Amore
John Avelluto

Nancy Azara

Angelica Bergamini

Jeanne Brasile

Luci Callipari-Marcuzzo
Jennifer Cecere
Debra Claffey
Chris Costan
Joe Cultrera

Elisa D'Arrigo
Grace DeGennaro
Claudia DeMonte

Sandra DeSando
Rosemarie Fiore
Cianne Fragione
Milisa Galazzi

Diana Gonzalez Gandolfi
Antonietta Grassi
Margaret Lanzetta
D. Dominick Lombardi
Joanne Mattera
Patricia Miranda

John Monti

John Paul Morabito
Laura Moriarty

Pasquale Natale

Sheila Pepe

Don Porcaro
Paula (Maenza) Roland
Patti Russotti
Lorenza Sannai
Thomas Sarrantonio
Tracy Spadafora
Melissa Stern
Charyl (Urbano) Weissbach
Lisa Zukowski

Part 2: Inside and Outside the Sphere of Ethnicity

The artists in this section share their memories of the Italian American childhoods that shaped them. The difference is that while many have the blood of makers in their veins, for this group it is less the culture of tradition that informs the work and more the culture of Italy itself.

 


Roberta Tucci, Something Special Here/Nothing Special Here, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 60 inches

Len Bellinger

Gianluca Bianchino

Serena Bocchino
Mary Bucci McCoy

Sean Capone

Paul Corio

Paul Fabozzi

Janet Filomeno

Michael Giaquinto

Aldo Longo
Robert Maloney

Lloyd Martin

Timothy McDowell

Thomas Micchelli
Sandi Miot

Dario Mohr

Wayne Montecalvo

Carolanna Parlato

Anna Patalano

Victor Pesce
Vincent Pidone
Lucio Pozzi
Paul Rinaldi
Hugo Rizzoli

Grace Roselli
Michelangelo Russo
Karen Schifano
Mary Schiliro

Assunta Sera

Denise Sfraga

Roberta Tucci

Josette Urso

Mark Wethli
Carleen Zimbaletti