Because of my upcoming exhibit at the Museo Italo Americano, San Francisco, I thought I’d initiate you about my background and Italian heritage. First, a little family tree history because my last name (provided by my German-derived Father) has perhaps led you astray. I was born in Newark, NJ and grew up in the neighboring East Orange. My mother, Marietta Roma Napoliello (her mother was a Fiore) was a first generation American and I am thus a second generation thoroughly Italian-American girl.
For those of you not in-the-know let me explain if your mother had an Italian family you were subsumed into that family totally, wholly regardless of your father’s ancestry.
So now that we’ve cleared that up we can move on to my relationship with the Museo Italo Americano in San Francisco because as an Italian American I am eligible to exhibit my art there. I have a great fondness for this institution as it helps me assert my Italian-ness to which I attribute a lot of things, and which balances my Germanic-ness which keeps me very organized.
The Museo www.museoitaloamericano.org established in 1978, is a touchstone for me. I started my dialogue with them in 1984. The first time I walked into the Museo in Fort Mason was in the early 90s when I met the then director, Robert Whyte.
Since that time I have admired their mission, the programs they offer, their community outreach and their support of Italian and Italian American artists.
Whyte asked me to exhibit first in 1994 for the Mostra ’94 or six artists he wanted to introduce to the Museo audience. He curated 5 paintings from my Illumination series into that beautiful exhibition.
In 1998 Whyte again contacted me because he was curating with Valentina Fogher an exhibit entitled Artists Who Look Back: Spirituality in Modern and Contemporary Art, and thought my new work inspired by Venice of the 1600s would enhance the exhibit nicely. This was a large and extravagant exhibit with a wonderful catalog.
In 2007 I met with the Museo’s esteemed Director, Paola Bagnatori and Committee of Art Chair, Professor Angela Little to discuss an exhibition for 2008. It was decided that it would be a dual exhibition with a wonderful abstract San Francisco painter, Paulette Long. The Museo’s expansive gallery held more than 30 of my minimalist paintings largely from my Blue Series of sea and sky. This was another good experience artistically, but beyond that there is a pride of my Italian roots that the Museo honors.
During 2007 and before the 2008 exhibit Professor Angela Little contacted me to participate in an exhibit of paintings at the Museo that would be based on Dante’s Inferno. I created a painting, Igniting Despair, that I paired with Dante’s Inferno passage, “Through me the way into the suffering city…..”
This trajectory of diverse exhibitions that I participated in at the Museo shows that the Museo provides a selective and varied platform of exhibit experiences for its audience.
Now we jump another decade to 2017, and Mary Servanti Steiner, the art curator at the Museo. After some dialogue and a committee meeting I was once again selected to exhibit. This time it would be a 3-person exhibition for 2018. Besides myself there would be 2 artists from San Francisco, Gianluca Franzese and Giuseppe Palumba. Planning went on during 2017 and the exhibit crystallized to become Perspectives. Which opens January 18th with a reception from 5:30-7:30. The exhibit closes on April 29th.
Currently a very exciting new development in my relationship to the Museo has evolved, as they are adding 5 of my paintings from my Marietta Robusti Tintoretto Series (1994-6) to their permanent collection. Some of these will be shown in November 2018 in an exhibition of their permanent collection.
This is a perfect home for this work, as it tells the story of an incredible Italian woman artist of the 16th Century. As the daughter of a Venetian master, her work had been subsumed into her father’s and her brother’s oeuvre. However, my research and resulting exhibition has, in the words of Lucy Lippard, made her visible again. The exhibition toured for several years under the funding of the ED Foundation (the research is held in the archival library of Seton Hall University, NJ). It is so fitting that the remaining pieces of that body of work be at the Museo and I know that Robusti Tintoretto’s story and my work will have an audience there for years to come.
So this is my little story and homage to the Museo Italo Americano. Perhaps you will see Perspectives in 2018 or the Robusti Tintoretto Story in the fall of 2018. I’d love for you to become acquainted with this wonderful institution that holds a very dear place in my personal and artistic life.
Marietta Patricia Leis