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'BRIDGES' Book Art Exhibitiion: Meet the artists

From May 5 to June 5, 2022, Cultural Association Il Palmerino hosts nine women artists from emergent Florentine painter Guenda Nocentini, to Venice Biennale veteran Silvia Fossati, painters, sculptors and poets from Florence and abroad create book art installations in response to women artists of the past.

Elena Barthel by Gruppo Fotografico Il Cupolone

ELENA BARTHEL studied at University of Florence’s Faculty of Architecture, and has taught at the Architectural Association in London and the Auburn University Rural Studio, in Alabama. As an architect, she deals with urban regeneration projects, mainly of public spaces, with a particular focus on the social and participatory aspects of urban and architectural design. Reclaiming everyday places and involving the inhabitants of a space in the design and construction processes are foundational characteristics of her work. In collaboration with Rural Studio, she designed and developed the project ‘Forum’, shown at the exhibition ‘Architecture as art’, during the XXI Triennial of Milan, at the city’s Bicocca Hangar. Her project ‘Theatre of the useful’ was exhibited at the XV Venice Biennale’s ‘Report from the front’. Both installations underline the importance of the ethical responsibility of contemporary architecture with respect to the consumption of resources.


VIRGINIE HOUDET was born in Nantes, France, to a family of artists. Her grandfather, Jean Bouchaud, was a travelling painter and gave her a taste for both travel and painting. Passionate about visual arts from an early age, she began photographing her world and explored cartooning, 2D, 3D, etching, engraving and mapping. She perfected her editing, special effects and directing skills in movies, and worked in various countries, including USA, Lebanon, Sweden, Portugal, Greece and England. In the 1990s, she began studying painting with Véronique Masurel at Atelier des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, reconnecting with her family’s heritage and finding her personal voice by combining painting, editing and film directing. Her work is found in collections in France, USA, England, China, Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands. As a Resident Artist at Il Palmerino, Virginie experiments with cyanotype, collage, gouache and ink. Her art lies at the edge of abstraction, and colour is her favourite focal point. She is inspired by the Old Masters and the Near East, and is fond of copying at the Louvre and the Uffizi, looking to previous generations, before embarking on a poetic adventure in the present.


Virginie Houdet by Viola Parretti

LYALL HARRIS is an American visual artist and writer with a BA in Art History from Northwestern University and an MFA in Book Art and Creative Writing from Mills College. Her book art is held in numerous Special Collection libraries, including those at Yale, Stanford, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and the National Museum for Women in the Arts. Harris’ painting has been widely exhibited in venues such as National Academy Museum, Creative Arts Workshop, National Art League, Maryland Federation of Art, Sonoma Museum of Visual Art, and many others, and recognised with multiple awards. Her poetry has appeared in The Minnesota Review, The New Guard, The Dewdrop, The Perch Magazine, The Vincent Brothers Review and elsewhere. Her book-length poem ‘Barrier Island’ is forthcoming from The Black Spring Press Group in London. Together with Mundy Walsh, she co-founded and co-edited The Sigh Press literary journal in Florence from 2014-2019. Harris has collaborated in the field of book art with Patricia Silva since 2014.


PATRICIA SILVA is a book artist, printmaker and educator with a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and an MFA from The University of the Arts, Philadelphia. She has been a Professor of Book Arts and Printmaking at American education abroad programs in Italy since 2000 and has worked with the University of Minnesota (Florence), Studio Arts College International (SACI), Santa Reparata International School of Art, Washington University (Florence), Texas Christian University (Florence), and the University of Georgia (Cortona), among others. She has also lectured and taught workshops extensively throughout Italy and the United States. In 1998, she was named ‘Maestro Rilegatore’ in the international bookbinding competition ‘L’infinito’ in Macerata, Italy. Her work has been exhibited in various venues and can be found in numerous collections including the Library of Congress, Carnegie Mellon University, Vanderbilt University, Scripps College, University of California (Los Angeles), University of Virginia and Museo Correr Library in Venice, Italy.


REA STAVROPOULOS is an artist, writer, curator, educator and advocate for women artists. She calls herself an ‘Athenian Florentine Londoner’, as she was born in Athens, brought up in London, and made Florence her home for many years. Her work reflects the multiple cultures and languages within which she lives. Rea exhibits internationally (painting, drawing, artist’s books, three-dimensional work, videos, installations and performances). She is represented in private and public collections worldwide, including the V&A Museum, which has acquired copies of all her artist’s books and some unique book works. Her Oltrarno life began in the 1970s, as a student at the British Institute of Florence. She has collaborated with the BIF and with Il Palmerino on exhibitions and artist’s talks, as an Advocate for Advancing Women Artists, and a regular writer for The Florentine. The female body informs her work, as she experiences her own body as a woman, and through movement, dance, swimming, walking, and experiencing nature, in dialogue with the works of artists past and present. She has been working on ideas linked to the Female Gaze, and themes associated with the Naked and the Nude.


AMALIA CIARDI DUPRÈ is heir to a family of artists that gave rise to one of the most important sculptors of the nineteenth century, Giovanni Duprè. After classical studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, she worked as an artist in Milan and Rome and, in 1966, began collaborating with well-known architects (Bicocchi, Monsani, Fagnoni and Berardi) for important decorative sculptural cycles and liturgical furnishings. From the late 1970s to 1987, she worked in Vincigliata, producing a monumental cycle for the small chapel of San Lorenzo, her most important work. Amalia produces sacred art and sculptures spotlighting social themes that are close to her heart: her sensitive treatment of modern issues, like immigration, mafia and injustice, coexist with recurrent themes like motherhood, myth and love. Her works grace squares, churches and palaces in Florence, Fiesole, Arezzo, Siena, Livorno, Prato, Pisa, Rome, Pordenone, Udine and Foggia, as well as cities abroad, including New York and Paris. The Amalia Ciardi Duprè Foundation was founded in 2014, to preserve the artist’s legacy, followed by the opening of the Amalia Ciardi Duprè Museum (CAD), on Via degli Artisti, at the premises of her workshop in Florence.


An age-old craft at Amalia Ciardi Duprè's workshop by Valentina Bellini

MARISA GARREFFA is a writer and performance artist from Australia, and the programme director of the new contemporary culture programme SOTTO al Brith for the British Institute of Florence. Her most recent performance was a seven-day ritual  performed live in SOTTO’s window onto the Arno River, where she hand-stitched together stories in multiple languages collected from across Florence and Tuscany, in a ritual to explore the careful and delicate work of reconnecting communities fractured by crisis. Marisa works with a circular creative process where words are collected, written, and generated live in real time through her live performance art, spoken word, and body-based works. These texts are then transcribed and refined into multiple outcomes from the poetic to the theoretical. She draws on traditions of oral storytelling, poetry, and contemporary mythologies to give voice to the complex interactions between collective and individual storytelling, exploring what remains ‘unspeakable’ in our lived experiences. Her ‘installation’ at the Bridges show consists of two live spoken-word performances on the art of women (7pm, May 5 and June 5 at Il Palmerino’s Gallinarium Amphitheatre).



GUENDA NOCENTINI   When it comes to the practice of drawing and painting, Guenda’s path began in 2017 at the Liceo Artistico L.B. Alberti, where she earned her high school diploma in June 2020. While still in school, the young artist began to explore the figurative arts with interest and competence. Thanks to an academic project with Il Palmerino, she had the opportunity to redesign and decorate a vintage screen. Over the last few years, she has begun painting portraits on commission and participating in collective exhibitions in the Florence area, including ‘Transition’ at the Piazzale delle Cascine (April 2021) and a live art-based performance at the Student Hotel in September 2021, as part of the Florence Queer Festival. The young artists involved in that first collective show, have now formed a cultural association, ‘Eterotopie Dissidenti’. Guenda is currently earning her three-year Painting Degree at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice and she works mainly on canvas and paper. The young artist’s research ranges from Expressionism to dreamy symbolism, and her learning curve is rapidly expanding. 


MIMMA DI STEFANO   A biologist by profession, Mimma was born in the Abruzzo region, but has lived in Florence since she was very young. Pupil of sculptor Amelia Ciardi Duprè, she has found a form of self-realization in sculpture. Mimma has participated in numerous collective exhibitions in Florence and staged solo exhibitions at the Gruppo Donatello, La Casa di Dante museum and the Galleria di Bologna. She exhibited at the First Biennale della Creatività in Verona, the 2nd International Biennale of Palermo and was a participating artist for the ‘Dialogando’ project with the Venice Biennale (2015) and ‘Isola che c'è’ (Palermo 2015). Mimma also participated in the XI Florence Biennale (2017) and ART CAPITAL (Paris, February 2019). She is among the protagonists of the volume La scultura, curated by Paolo Levi (2014) and is included in Catalogue N. 54 of Edizioni Mondadori’s Modern Art series, published in 2018. In January 2022, her work was featured in the volume Poetry and Art, edited by Salvo Nugnes, Art Factory Edizioni.



SILVIA FOSSATI divides her time between Florence, her hometown, and Pontremoli (MS) where she has exhibited and held art courses at her ‘Casa d’Artista’ workshop and home gallery since 2004. Silvia has been showing her work (painting, mixed media, glass, ceramics) since the mid-1970s. Because of her love of forms and volumes, glass has become her research material par excellence. In 2011, Silvia was invited to the Venice Biennale (Costa Rica pavilion), where she showed her first large installation focused on ‘the sounds of glass’ – which featured some 300 melted bottles of various hues, that hung from the ceiling (h. 3 metres). Many of her works are in public and private collections in Italy and abroad, in countries like Poland, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Mexico, USA, Japan, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. As an organiser of artistic and cultural activities, she plans exhibitions and hosts vernissages and seminars. Silvia is president of STUDIO GIAMBO, an association dedicated to art, language and culture in Florence.



Project organisers   The British Institute of Florence and Il Palmerino Cultural Association


Oltrarno Gaze 2022 is made possible thanks to a grant by the Advancing Women Artists Legacy Fund, with special thanks to Alice Vogler, Donna Malin, Connie Clark, Pam Fortune, Nancy Hunt, Nancy Galliher and AWA Legacy Fund Director Margaret MacKinnon


Project conception and coordination

Linda Falcone


Media and communication

Calliope Arts / Restoration Conversations

The Florentine


With the patronage of

Consulate of the United States of America in Florence


Participating partners  'Sotto al British' at the British Institute of Florence, Gruppo Fotografico Il Cupolone APS, 'Creative People in Florence', Freya's Florence, Amalia Ciardi Duprè Museum, Atelier degli Artigianelli and Spazio NOTA with Osservatorio Mestieri d'Arte, FAF collective: Female Artisans in Florence 


Participating video makers and photographers: Olga Makarova, Simone Sabatini, Viola Parretti, Alessandra Barucchieri, Valentina Bellini, Cinzia Carmen Cardellicchio, Laura Cervaroli, Maria Grazia Dainelli, Cecilia Franchi, Elisa Fossi, Maria Laura Fineschi, Daniela Giampà, Donatella Piazza, Irene Pini, Antonella Tomassi


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