The Billings Outpost

Rocky goes Italian

By JANE WHITE - The Billings Outpost

“Art is everywhere in Italy; it’s in the architecture, in the sidewalk; it’s so emotional, so much so that - it’s exhausting,” said Adrien Barrett, 21, from Shelbyville, Ind., a Rocky Mountain College art major.

But the smile on her face reflecting last year’s colorful memories in Perugia, Italy, where she studied art and lived in Villa Pieve, belied any fatigue. Florence, the paradigm of Italian architecture, lay just a short distance from her student haven in Perugia, Italy. Brunelleschi’s dome, a seminal achievement in the field of architecture, is in Florence.

Further, the creator of the concept of “the Italian Villa” – Palladio - is also from what some call northern Italy, Vicenza.

“It’s wonderful. I’d go back tomorrow, if I could,” said Ms. Barrett.

About 16 Rocky students who lived in Villa Pieve for a semester near Perugia, Italy, created paintings, linoleum block prints, sculpture, watercolors and drawings. Their work is on display at Rocky from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through March 25.

Rocky art majors learn a lot about architecture, especially Florentine architecture. The Villa is an airy, livable home with a particular plan and stylized windows and other motifs. This Italian art form - perfected by Palladio – has special windows on the facade. Such windows have steeply curved attractive triangles, called pediments, above them and are called Palladian.

The Villa is adapted to the mild Mediterranean climate and its Palladian windows on the facade let in lots of sun. Inside are layered blinds made of steel that have to be hefted firmly and energetically to be opened and closed with a powerful belt made of nylon. The blinds shut out so much light that napping in comfortable darkness in the sunny afternoons is possible.

Another creator of architecture, Brunelleschi, is also from Italy and built the world’s first dome in Florence. The resilient structure of the dome owes a debt to Brunelleschi, who used concrete and calculated innumerable angles with intricate math equations to be the first to capture that coveted stability in a dome.

But according to a formerly licensed working architect, William Harrison, 82, of Billings, “That dome collapsed in on itself once … can’t remember when, but they fixed it. All the interior came crashing down.” Mr. Harrison studied architecture at the University of California at Berkeley about 30 years ago.

Art lovers last week viewed the exhibit, “Study in Italy,” at the Ryniker-Morrison Gallery at Rocky Mountain College. There were no prizes or winners at the show. All students who submitted work were exhibited, including works by faculty and students whose work was either completed in Italy or influenced by the country and culture of Italy.

The show refreshes the memories of anyone who has ever had the good fortune to travel to Italy, learn its sensuous language and interact with Italian and other artists.

“This is the first exhibit of its kind at the college,” said Sally McIntosh, director of the Ryniker-Morrison Gallery and former owner of McIntosh Art Co. Ms. McIntosh, who studied art history at San Francisco State College, said, “This is a 2-year-old program.”

Professor James A. Baken, who has traveled to Italy on his own as well as with Rocky students and other faculty, said, “This is a small show as Rocky’s Italian program is just beginning, but already students have studied drawing, photography, printmaking, ceramics, art history and painting. This exhibit is a result of those studio classes, which are all sanctioned RMC credits.”

He said Ms. Barrett overcame major hurdles in the medium of watercolor and made inroads on environmental issues expressed in her artwork.

“We’ve had some amazing students be part of this Italian program,” said Baken.

Ms. McIntosh said that people other than art majors go on this eye-opening foreign travel adventure in artistic studies.

“Members of community are welcome. Alumni and family of alumni came to the villa, Villa Pieve, for a week. Helen Tolliver was one of them, and she has work in the exhibit. The tour is seven days … with a full schedule they sign up for.”

She said next year perhaps the program might expand so that students other than art majors may possibly be included. Some other majors that might possibly participate include English, music and math majors, she said. However, she added, it is not definite yet. Call Rocky Mountain College for more information.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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