Sandi Miot

Aqua 1 Coral, 2017, encaustic and mixed media, 8 x 15 x app. 5 inches

Miot: Finding the Italian Roots


My family did not have relatives near to where we lived in Washington, D.C., not my father’s many Italian relatives nor my mother’s equally numerous Scotch-Irish ones. All were scattered up and down the East Coast, and we visited infrequently. Occasionally my sister, brother, parents and I would pile into the family car to drive to Brooklyn to visit my Italian grandmother, who spoke no English at all, and who still lived in the walk-up tenement in which my father grew up. Most of my father’s 10 brothers and sisters, with their multiple children, lived nearby. I did not know them well, but I envied them and the communal life they all seemed to share.


My grandmother always sent a Christmas box of the hardest cookies I had ever eaten. I remember my grandmother now for the food she made us when we did visit: homemade ravioli, fried pan pizzas, and those hard cookies, which I came to identify as stale Italian Wedding Cookies. With no common verbal language, food became the language she spoke.


My father never talked much about his family and I neglected to ask him the pertinent questions I should have asked, something I fervently regret now that he is gone. I believe he was ashamed of his family. I did ask him once why he never taught me the Italian he spoke so fluently with his mother. His answer was that it wasn’t a dialect to be proud of. His family came from the tip of Calabria and they spoke a bastard blend of Italian and Albanian common to the area.

It wasn’t until traveling in Italy, in search of that connection to my Italian roots, that I realized the discrimination that existed against those Southern Italians that had trickled down to the new generations living in America, which he felt.


However I fell immediately in love with everything Italian, in particular, the art. Those trips fostered my explorations of the ancient mediums of gold leaf, egg tempera, and encaustic. Most of my work is sculptural, reliefs built on two-dimensional surfaces, much like the doors on the Baptistery in Florence, of which I had fallen in love at first sight.


The Coral Project, originally designed as wall pieces, grew outwards to encompass a unique system, or biome. It is now an installation of small, brightly colored sculptures made from dried materials, fiber, paper, and any other object that could resemble small creatures. The project was inspired by the gradual disappearance of the world’s coral reef system due to global warming. By displaying the infinite variety and awesome beauty of the corals for all to see, I hope to inspire my viewers to act in some small way to help reverse the damage being done to this vital part of our world. 


Blue 2 Coral, 2017, encaustic and mixed media, 13 x 11 x app. 5 inches

Red 2 Coral, 2017, encaustic and mixed media, 20 x 13 x app. 5 inches

Sandi Miot