URI writer & RIC photographer to exhibit

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

Strange Flux: Tales of Immigrants and the Italian Scape

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 31, 2003 – Providence’s West Broadway Neighborhood Association will host an opening reception on Friday, Nov. 14 at 5:30 p.m. to celebrate a new exhibit, “Strange Flux: Tales of Immigrants and the Italian Scape.”

The collaborative project featuring the photographs of Paola Ferrario and the prose poems of Mary Cappello will be exhibited at the association, located at 1560 Westminster St., Providence from Nov. 14 through Dec. 30. Ferrario designed the exhibit, which was executed by Benjamin Adams, which creatively exploits the space of the one-time garage.

A native of Milan, Italy, Ferrario earned her master’s of fine arts from Yale University and teaches photography at Rhode Island College. Cappello, teaches English at the University of Rhode Island and is the author of Night Bloom: A Memoir (Beacon, 1998). Her grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy.

In 2001, Ferrario and Cappello were awarded the prestigious Lange-Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The prize is given annually to one writer and photographer in the early stages of a documentary project. The grant made it possible for Ferrario and Cappello to conduct fieldwork in Italy.

As Italian immigrants and grandchildren of Italian immigrants to the United States, Cappello and Ferrario were sensitive to and curious about the metamorphosis of their country of cultural origin into a point of destination rather than departure.

Unlike other European nation-states, such as England, France and Germany, whose colonialist history and economic conditions led people from other cultures and countries to leave their homelands and seek prosperity, Italy has, for better or for worse, led a very sheltered, ethnically protected life.

However, the immigration phenomenon of the past 10 years in Italy– with people arriving from diverse parts of the world including Africa, Eastern Europe, India, the Middle East, Latin and South America, and China–has caused Italy to confront the boundaries of its own identity and adjust to a polycultural model.

Italy is not exceptional in its receipt of new immigrants: reactions range from hatred and fear to curiosity and acceptance. Excitement is rare. Media depictions of these new communities rarely help overcome pervasive discrimination, but instead indulge in, as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, the notion that co-habitation is impossible, according to Cappello.

The exhibit, supported by a New Works Grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, represents a portion of Cappello’s and Ferrario’s in-depth encounters with numerous new immigrants to Italy, those from Syria and Ecuador, Senegal and Ukraine, India and Morocco who now work as tailors, clerks, nannies, dairy farmers, writers, and political activists.

The exhibit represents questions and problems, pervasive images and challenges both for Italy’s definition of itself and the new immigrants who are struggling to live and work there. The keynote of the exhibit is dialogue: the conversations that the artists had with people in Italy; the dialogue that emerges in their collaborative record of those encounters in word and image; and the dialogue that they hope will happen between people who attend the exhibit. “Most of all,” the artists said, “we hope to record and recover some of the different human destinies that are lost in the ocean of statistical data on immigration.”

Set in Providence’s West Broadway Neighborhood, the artists hope that the exhibit will draw together Italian/Americans, who are now third generation immigrants, with the new immigrant groups who also currently live in the neighborhood, people from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Vietnam.

The exhibit hours are Mondays through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For More Information: Mary Cappello, 751-1018