Printmaking in Venice

Monday, February 24

This was the last weekend of Carnivale, and we were out in the crowds soaking up the majesty of it all before we heard about the corona virus hitting this area. It’s incredible to be in a place where so many adults dress up and prance about the town. Everywhere we went we saw people in full-on regalia; from historic costumes including wigs, shoes, masks and handbags, to contemporary costumes of Disney and video game characters. The most dedicated assume the character and strike poses for all the cameras that surround them. People flock to the squares to see and be seen. One of my favorite moments was when a woman in complete Marie Antoinette personna reached into her silk handbag to answer her cell-phone. Time folding in on itself!

We wandered about for hours Saturday evening. From one plaza where electronic dance music was blasting, to our own quieter neighborhood where a five-piece brass band was playing Miami Sound Machine and carnival music. Revelers would stream into the Campo and dance to a few tunes and then meander on to the next impromptu party. The cafes were full and the canals glistened in the lights. It was really magical.

We ventured out again on Sunday, to see more of the festivities and that’s when we began to see people wearing the other kinds of masks – the protective face masks that are common in Asia. By 3 PM we got to the Scuola and heard the news that the government was cancelling the rest of Carnivale and closing public spaces like sporting events, museums, schools and universities. One of our studio mates, who came from Sicily, cut her residency short and high-tailed it out of town to avoid getting quarantined in Venice. We went to the grocery store and stocked up on a couple of days worth of food and went back to the Palazzo to read the news and assess our situation. We spoke to Matilde, the director of the Scuola who informed us that the classes at the Scuola would be cancelled for the week, but we would be free to continue to work in the studio on our own project.

So, instead of teaching today, Sheldon and I continued our mascaroni project. It was eerily quiet in the studio, which is usually bustling with activity. We were there with three other artists in residence, the shop manager Alissia, Matilde and Lorenzo. The staff was really sad and disappointed that the workshop I was supposed to teach was cancelled. We all hope that things will return to normal next week.

The upside is that the studio was empty, so we spread out and printed a series of multiple plate prints and damp-packed paper for another printing day tomorrow.

If you didn’t read the news, you might not know anything was happening at all. The streets are a little quieter, but that could be a Monday thing. A few shops are closed, but the restaurants, bars, markets and tourist shops are open. There are still fruit vendors selling things in the streets and most people aren’t wearing masks. The sanitation workers aren’t in haz-mat suits, the vaparettos (water buses) are running normally and people are out and about.

We are going to play it day by day and see how this all unfolds.

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