Serena Bocchino

Strong Tower, 2020, enamel paints with collaged elements on raw canvas, 42 x 52 inches

Bocchino: Italian Culture in the Bones


I felt like I had come home when I first arrived in Rome in 1990 for a solo exhibition. The sights, sounds, and tastes of the romantic city seemed so familiar. The rich Italian heritage I experienced growing up formed this instant connection.


My grandmother, Maria Confalone, was from Rome. She was trained in Italy by her grandmother to be a seamstress. When Maria immigrated to New York, she continued her practice with a specialty, creating sewn lace and adornments for private clients, including embellishments for couture and elegant window dressings. My grandfather, although a barber by trade, spent his evenings and weekends building architectural models of Italian churches and monuments. He carefully constructed each detail of these elaborate replicas using only matchsticks and cardboard. He created these models into his later years until he passed, and then my grandmother came to live with us.


Over time, it has become clear that both of my grandparents have heavily influenced my work, not only through their dedication to intricate details, but also through their ability to elaborate and make art out of everyday things. I see this in my most recent work with printed, sheer fabric veils that are suspended from the ceiling in dialogue with my paintings.


When I was growing up, my family continued the practices of my grandparents by keeping a traditional Italian household. The sounds of our home were always full of Italian opera, which played in tandem to my parents and grandparents speaking Italian. Dinners were full of homemade Italian foods. My grandmother ran the kitchen in our home. She was a terrific cook of traditional Italian delicacies. I would help with the making of the family recipes. The functioning energy in the kitchen was like an art form. It was creative, colorful, and intuitive.


My mother was an artist and maintained a home studio. An admirer of Italian Renaissance paintings and sculptures, she would incorporate reproductions of them into her work. Early exposure to this artwork made an impression on me; even at a young age I studied the images my mother incorporated into her collages and tried recreating them myself. She would also paint murals on the walls, ceilings, and floors of our home, making it feel as though we lived in the many palaces and museums she had visited in Italy.


The Italian culture passed on through many generations has richly influenced my studio practice today. I am proud to say that the Italian culture has seeped into my bones and runs through my blood without anywhere to go except through my mind, heart, and hands, manifesting itself in my work.  


Installation of Veils and Paintings, 2020

Veils, 2020, enamel with collaged elements on raw canvas, 48 x 52 inches

Serena Bocchino