As you know, this year’s Espresso Manifesto Salone di Cultura is taking place on the Festa della Reppublica, June 2, at the historic Columbus Centre. One of the artists being showcased this year is artist Sara Angelucci.
Each of us, artist or not, thinks of their own life experiences through a unique lens. Part of the lead up to the Salone is a series of blog posts about the event, partners, and artists. We’re talking to each of the artists to find out what’s on their minds about the past, present, and future of our experience being.
Canadian of Italian heritage. Here’s what Sara shared with us:
When you think about the Italian part of your background, what is it that comes to mind first or that has the most resonance?
A love of family, culture and food. I learned the values of being respectful, hard working, grounded, loyal, and a deep connection to other people –and this has taken me a long way in my life. They are values that I am deeply rooted in.
How does your Italian background influence your work?
When I was in graduate school and for about a decade afterwards, I was really looking deeply at my own identity. My parents both died quite young and before I did my master’s degree, so this was very much on my mind when I was in school and it drove me to do that work. I was dealing with the grief of losing them, but also asking questions about my heritage which had never occurred to me to ask before they died. It was something I just took for granted.
But now, my heritage or identity is not the subject of my work. It certainly influences me in my work ethic and in the way I deal with people, but not in content. What researching my heritage did was make me look at photographs in a different way and to question them. In graduate school I started to work with images from my family archive and now I am working with anonymous and found photographs. I am looking at them from a technological, historical and social point of view and this is driving my current projects and interests.
How does your Canadian identity influence your work? Would you say part of your identity is distinctly Italian? How is it different? Is it in conflict with the Canadian world around you?
I feel very Canadian, and am really proud to be Canadian, but I am also proud of my Italian heritage, and I feel both have influenced my world view. Italians generally are deeply emotional people and expressing that is not seen as weakness. I think the anglo-saxon culture is generally more detached, and perhaps this is where I see myself sometimes experiencing the differences.
Family is of course of central importance to Italians, but there are many other cultures which have those values and in Canada we encounter that, and I find that really interesting. I find my connection to family wonderful and at the core of who I am, but sometimes it can be stifling too. So perhaps I truly am Italo-Canadian in the sense that I can really see both sides. I love my family, but I also treasure my space and independence. Since my parents have been gone for a long time (almost thirty years now) I am definitely less influenced by the Italian family structure than when I was younger.
I think the conflict I often felt with my Italian upbringing was the influence my parents brought from an older tradition that pressured me to take on more traditional female roles. As I grew up, I became conscious of the Italian culture as one based in a patriarchal religion and worldview. Growing up, I really rejected those things, and I think being raised in a Canadian milieu allowed me to challenge those perspectives. That difference wasn’t always an easy one to negotiate with my parents.
As a woman, I am grateful for having grown up in a Canadian context, which I feel really supported the independence I sought. I think those ideas are really changing in Italy now, but one can still see those values deeply rooted in the culture. Because we have such a multi-cultural society here, I think Canadian women have experienced the history and deep influence of feminism for a longer period of time, and it has been a more embedded discourse.
How do you see your heritage/cultural background influencing the next generation?
I don’t have children but I have nieces and a nephew. I guess I hope I can connect them with where they came from in the same way that my aunts did for me. It helped me to understand something profound about myself and to know myself better. I think history and heritage are really important. I think we should know where we came from in the broad sense of that idea.
When I visit my family in Italy or my relatives here, I feel like a part of me that is dormant gets ignited. It’s a part that is associated with my parents and grandparents. It’s hard to even describe what that feeling is, but it’s something very deep, familiar, and is connected to a sense of home. I really cherish it.