Alice Valenti was artistically raised in the workshop of Domenico Di Mauro, a great painter of Sicilian carts from Catania, and talks about Sicily through her artworks. From tradition to modernity, a history of craftsmanship that meets some major international brands such as Averna and Dolce & Gabbana. Sicilian Secrets interviewed her.
Q: How did you approach the world of craftsmanship?
A: I am lucky because I had the opportunity to attend the workshop of one of the greatest Sicilian cart painters, Domenico Di Mauro. He used to smile and say to me “You graduated here”, via Tito, 8 in Aci Sant’Antonio, in the province of Catania. And it’s true because there I had the chance to study to become an artist, to learn a precious and ancient figurative code like the one of the Sicilian carts, a fundamental piece of our folklore.
Q: What is the distinctive element of Alice Valenti’s artworks?
A: At an early stage my style was very connected to what I had learned in the workshop and therefore to the carts’ decorations, to a painting style close to popular art. Step by step my style has evolved towards a more original direction and closer to my personality. In fact, I went through new experiments.
Q: Alice Valenti and Sicily: how does you describe the island through your artworks?
A: Sicily always is a starting point. I live here and believe that there is whatever can stimulate the sensitivity of an artist. Sicily is always in my works, both when I choose a theme like ‘u pisci a mari’, a pantomime that is organized every year in June in Aci Trezza and that I have painted, and – in a silent way – from the image of a closed shutter with sun that shines and creates a magic of colors.
Q: In your opinion, how important is it to educate new generations to know more about craftsmanship?
A: I think it is important and essential. Craftsmanship offers good job opportunities but isn’t taken enough into considered by politicians. We need to find specific solutions to connect schools and craftsmanship, it is a thread that has passed through Sicilian culture over the centuries since ancient times and that shouldn’t be broken.
Q: Can you tell us anything about the partnership with Averna?
A: The partnership with Averna was my first important collaboration with an international company. They contacted me in 2016 because they appreciated my way of conveying Sicilian tradition in a contemporary way. For this brand I created three labels for the Magnum bottle in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Moreover, Averna gave me the opportunity to do some other collaborations, for example the one with Dolce & Gabbana.
Q: Social and pandemic: how much has the web contributed to your business during this crazy period we are experiencing?
A: For any artist, concentration is a fundamental part of their work. Therefore, this moment was not 100% bad. Internet allowed us to be connected and stay in touch with whatever was happening in the world, to activate new synergies, to give us new ideas and suggestions to learn about other realities.
Q: Is there a place in Sicily that particularly creatively inspires you?
A: I love Aci Trezza, here there is a historic shipyard that has belonged to the Rodolico family for five generations. Together we have carried out a project called ‘Spiranza’ (Hope) that consists of a gozzo (a boat) that I restored and painted. It is a tribute not only to the historic tradition of this shipyard and to the seaside village of Aci Trezza, but it is also a link with the present, with what the boat means today.
On the floor of the boat, I wanted to reproduce a series of extracts from the Malavoglia by Verga, Homer’s Odyssey and the letters of migrants found in Lampedusa. These apparently different texts have something in common: what the sea represents, that is, the unknown. The fatigue and hopes of those who set out on a journey: to bring some fish home or seek a better future. And the concerns of those who stay home while praying for their beloved ones and hope they may come back safe.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: There are countless! I like it when my work is connected to something that I consider valuable, such as schools and young people. I want to carry out projects that involve children and then, looking to the imminent future, I’m collaborating with a tailor’s shop in Catania. This summer we will produce a collection with my printed fabrics.