The LaGrange Art Museum has requested I make my collage, ”Accept This,” available for use in their Call For Entries mailer. I’m honored and pleased to do so. The LaGrange Art Museum, in particular Lauren Oliver, Deputy Director of the Museum, has been very appreciative of my work in the past and this is a nice gesture by the museum. This museum is a wonderful regional art center, certainly top tier in the southeast. I’m happy to spread the word.
August 21, 2015
What I found out about my father’s childhood both surprised me and inspired me to make this collage. His relationship with his older sister and his mother always struck me as strained but he died before I could ask him about it.
A few years ago, on a trip to visit family in Italy, a cousin gave me a handful of letters written to my father, Dante by his father, Francesco. The letters had been in the attic at least 70 years and were discovered while cleaning out the attic to prepare the house for its new owners. Unfortunately the letters my Dad wrote in response were lost.
So, I was able to piece together this much:
My grandparents Francesco and Adelia emigrated to the United States and took their first born, Maria with them but left their son, Dante, my father, in the care of Francesco’s sister, Isolina, and her husband. I had known of this vaguely but learned from the letters that my father had been left in the care of his aunt & uncle… for 10 years(!) During this time, Francesco wrote lovingly about America in beautiful penmanship telling Dante to study English. America, he wrote, would give him a better life than a poor country like Italy. As far as I can tell, Dante did not want to come to the United States and Francesco and Adelia never came back to Italy to visit their son. He came to the US as a teenager, his parents and his sister were strangers to him and shortly thereafter he went back to Italy to stay with the only family he had ever really known, his aunt & uncle and their two daughters, Lucia and Giovanna.
However, when Mussolini rose to power, Francesco became concerned for my father's safety and feared his certain conscription. He arranged for his son to travel to Marseilles where a friend would help him leave Europe. My father escaped from Italy, made it to France and boarded the Saturnia, bound for the United States.
Lucia lived in her parents’ home until she was in her eighties, which is why the letters were not discovered until a few years ago. I will never know why so much time lapsed before my father was reunited with his sister and their parents other than his initial desire to return to the more familiar.
My grandfather died of pneumonia at 57 years of age on Christmas Day, 1945 in New York City, shortly after my parents were married. My grandmother Adelia died in the early 70’s. As a child, I never witnessed any affection between mother and son.
My father, the only member of his family to graduate from college, became a successful businessman and died at the age of 59 in 1975. At his death he was only two years older than his father.
I finished this collage within days of the 40th anniversary of my father’s passing, August 21, 2015. It’s an homage, divided in three parts, with the colors of the Italian flag as a backdrop. On the left panel is a photo of my Dad as a young boy with his friends, the middle panel, my Dad on the ship Saturnia on his way to the US and the right panel, a photo of him split in half, as a young man in NYC.