“Primavera Romana” means “Roman Spring” in Italian, which makes it an apt title for an exhibition of paintings and drawings made by SVA students in the Italian capital this semester. Organized by program co-directors Tom Huhn and Peter Hristoff, the show marks the culmination of the inaugural SVA in Rome program and includes works by 14 students.
BFA Visual & Critical Studies student Jon Nazareth is showing a selection of watercolor drawings based on Byzantine mosaics that he and his classmates visited. “It was important for me to go out and see them up close because they have so much detail and richness in color and allegory,” he says. It was this kind of experience that motivated Nazareth to study in Italy with SVA. “Rome is 90% of every art history book. This was a chance to connect with practices that have been around for thousands of years.”
Program co-director and faculty member Peter Hristoff studied in Italy as an undergraduate himself, so he can easily relate. This spring he watched as students grew artistically as they negotiated a different culture and experienced the monumental examples of human accomplishment on offer in Rome. “Having an Oh, Wow! moment every day changes you,” he explains.
Just how much
students have been influenced by the experience has surprised program co-director Tom Huhn, chair of BFA Visual & Critical Studies, Art History and the Honors Program. Huhn initiated SVA in Rome after directing the College’s Art History in Southern France summer program for seven years and leading SVA Honors students on trips to Istanbul, Oxaca and other artistic centers. “Though Rome is technically only a city, [students’] work reveals what I think we have all come to realize this semester: this city appears to each of us now as something more like a continent.”
BFA Design student Genevieve O’Keefe contributed the invitation design to the exhibition in addition to her own work. It was a rare opportunity to focus on graphic design in a program heavy on history and philosophy. But, she explains, “I knew that I would grow and explore and learn lessons that will stay with me for life, and I couldn’t pass that up.” For the exhibition, O’Keefe is showing a satirical work inspired by the Roman emperors she’s gotten to know this semester: an Imperial Portrait Catalogue designed for the iPad.
In addition to Nazareth and O’Keefe, participating students include Taylor Baker, Julia Garcia, Katharine Kuhne, Kyle Lefkowitz, Lily Lewis, Monica Lo, Anna Prince, Alekha Ranjitsinh, Tina Rivosecchi, Lisa Saeboe, Andrew Senken and Gerald Sheffield.
The exhibition is being hosted by the historic Antica Libreria Cascianelli, one of the oldest shops in Rome. Since it opened in 1830 as a purveyor of ecclesiastical vestments, the Libreria remains largely unchanged, from its retracting window, blown-glass light fixtures and walnut paneling to the meeting room hidden behind a rotating bookshelf. “The store probably holds many secrets from the last two centuries,” suggests Valentina LaRocca, one of the shop’s partners.
The Libreria’s history isn’t lost on the students. “It feels more and more like a privilege and honor to present our work in this location. It’s an overwhelming experience,” says Sheffield, an Iraq war veteran who is studying in BFA Fine Arts at SVA.
Qualified SVA students have until the end of May to apply for SVA in Rome. Visit sva.edu/rome for program details. “Primavera Romana” will be on view at the Antica Libreria, Largo Febo 14 – 16, from May 9 – 14, with a reception Friday, May 9, 6 – 9pm. Hours are weekdays from 10:30am to 9pm.
Images, top to bottom: a site on the SVA in Rome itinerary, photo Peter Hristoff; work by Genevieve O’Keefe; work in progress by Jon Nazareth; work by Tina Rivosecchi at the Libreria Cascianelli, photo Peter Hristoff.