by Renée Ricciardi
What does a gift say about a culture? How do gifts bring people closer? What happens when you pair 5 American artists with 5 Sicilian artists in remote town in Italy? The upcoming Regali exhibition at the Massachusetts College of Art showcases the stories behind some of the most precious gifts.
Regali, meaning gifts in Italian, is a transcontinental exchange in Favara, Italy. Over the course of two weeks, we collaborated in an investigation of gift culture in the rural Sicilian town of Favara. As one of the ten artists in this residency, I am thrilled to announce that the exhibition is on its way to Boston.
The project is the brainchild of Nita Sturiale, the SIM Department Chairperson at MassArt. In collaboration with Lisa Wade, the Regali Residency was initially held at the FARM Cultural Park, a unique contemporary art center in the ancient center of Favara, Sicily.
For two weeks, the ten of us artists crossed cultural and language barriers to get to the bottom of something deeply ingrained in Sicilian culture: Gifts.
A golden necklace, a sharp opera voice singing loudly. A small trinket and a doll....
...These are some of the gifts that we discovered as we interviewed the townspeople of the remote village of Favara. First we explored the literal idea of gifts as objects. Village locals would tell us about their most precious gift they've received, revealing the story of where it came from and why. Then we would photograph and document this treasured object.
But the literal soon became figurative...
As we engaged with the townspeople of Favara, Regali became interested in a broad concept of gifts in a social construct. We became aware of what the people of Favara bring to community as individuals. For example, we interviewed a world traveled opera singer whose gift was bringing song to this small town. We also met Maria, a young Sicilian native who brings laughter to children as a talented balloon twister at local parties and events. These gifts were visceral and whimsical. These gifts touched us at an emotional level.
Director Nita Sturiale, explains her reaction to some immigrants we interviewed:
“I was humbled by the many unexpected gifts we received during this experience. We were invited inside the homes of strangers and told many secrets. I’m particularly touched by Kwame’s story, an immigrant from Ghana, whose dream is to find his way to Brooklyn, NY. The gift he spoke of is his sister who remains in his homeland. He dreams of seeing her again one day."
In the upcoming exhibition, we explore the gift giving culture using film/video, photography, book making, installation and performance art.
Nita Sturiale, Project Director (US)
Lisa Wade, Co-Director (IT)
Gabriele Abbruzzese (IT)
Audrey Cerchiara (US)
Annamaria Craparotta (IT)
Jennifer Hope Davy (DE)
Nicole Dube (US)
Luke Mannarino (US)
Carmelo Nicotra (IT)
Renée Ricciardi (US)
We invite you to celebrate the opening reception of Regali in which all five of our European artists will be in attendance. This event is FREE and open to the public.
Insider tip: Early birds get a taste of Sicilian food. :)
Wednesday, February 24th 2016
Godine Gallery at MassArt
621 Huntington Ave
All photos by Renée Ricciardi.