Book of Longings 

Mixed-media page of Italian altar with candles and roses
Collage with old and new photos of canals in Venice, Italy
Collage of Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, with assemblage key
Collage with photos of gondolas in Venice, Italy, gondolas, with jewelry assemblage
Collage of old balcony overlooking the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy
Collage with two women including self-portrait by Artemesia Gentileschi
Collage of Venetian staircase and hand-made pocket with ribbon
Collage of window with ocean view surrounded by sea shells

A Book of Longings (Un Libro dei Desideri) 

A conjuring of 16th century Italy that speaks to the bittersweetness of love, loss and longing

Mixed media accordion, two-sided, x panels
Folded: 7.5" H x 6" W
Unfolded: 7.5" H x 30" W 

During last year’s lockdown, the craving I felt for freedom and escape emerged (as it did for so many) as a vision of travel. For me, all roads led to Italy, and to Venice in particular. 

While I’ve spent not even a dozen nights in Venice, her magic, mystery and beauty have captured me. It is no wonder that, during that Covid year, images and colors from Venice would flood my being with longing. I began this book as an expression of – and balm for - that yearning.

As I progressed through the first few panels of the book, however, a most intriguing thing happened: an imaginary love story began to emerge between two of the remarkable (historical) women I had discovered during my explorations of Venetian history. 

One was Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652), a highly successful painter now considered one of the most accomplished baroque artists of her era (her portrayal in the book is from her Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting). The other was Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia (1646-1684), a brilliant student of mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and theology, and the first woman (ever) to receive a doctorate. 

And so, to my surprise and delight, a narrative began to develop. I could clearly see the romance blooming as Artemisia painted Elena’s portrait. But, then… no further storyline came to me. All I had was the heavy foreknowledge that their romance would end in heartbreak and they would live out their lives burdened with longing.

It wasn’t until the book was done that I could decipher its message. It asked: rather than see longing as a hardship to be endured, could I instead see it as an offering that keeps hope alive? 

Can longing, in fact, be a gift that reminds us in times of darkness that our souls are still awake and our hearts are still beating?