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Neila Hicks

Brozzetti, Lungarotti & Hicks Inc.

By | 2016, Europe | No Comments

Throughout the trip, I found myself focusing on different entrepreneurial ventures that went above and beyond the call of duty. Growing up in a have-not province, I have grown accustomed to what I call “subsistence-entrepreneurship”, otherwise known as the service industry, knick-knack shops, and unappealing tourist traps. It is not to do a disservice to the lovely people who get these up and running, or to gloss over some really keen individuals who have worked hard to bring something more to the province’s economy. However, most of these endeavors fail by circulating money within the same poor demographic until it all dissipates into taxes and bad investments. Other than these vain attempts, the major industries rely on exporting non-renewable natural resources.

Marta’s Museum of Giuditta Brozzetti in Perugia deeply impressed on me the understanding that industry can be rooted in processing and artistry, and not only in harvesting. The buildings at the Lungarotto vineyard gave me a new appreciation for concrete and stainless steel, which I had heretofore found aesthetically intolerable. I walked jealously through the warehouses, where so many people are gainfully employed in meaningful work. And as I watched the machines spin and spin in the Lungarotti labelling room, the cogs of my mind began to turn as well. Slowly at first, then more firmly.

I find it so ironic that the most lasting impact of this Europe trip, taken as part of a Liberal Arts program along with my wonderful, hippie, communist companions, has been to inspire me with capitalist aspirations. But no worries friends; should I ever get a bit of stainless steel to myself, I will make sure to pay all of my taxes.

Géricault, Bonheur, and Cod Liver Oil

By | 2016, Europe | 2 Comments

My primary struggle on this journey has been, for me, an unexpected one. Periodically, and as early on in our itinerary as London, I have been nearly paralyzed by homesickness. I’m not isolated. I’m surrounded by friends. I adore the cities that have welcomed me. But, in a truly horrific throwback to middle school, I have felt shapeless and ungrounded.  I crave a context to recognize myself in, an identity formed by participating in a familiar environment, and not just looking on. I have grown sick to my stomach of “hanging out”.

This feeling struck me especially hard in Paris, on the day we visited the Louvre. I remember walking through golden rooms filled with masterpieces from the Romantic Era. The passionate images surrounding me seemed to mirror my feelings. No matter their stories, the characters seemed dreadfully homesick to me. The Gypsies in Leopold Robert’s “L’Arrivée des Moissonneurs dans les marais Pontins” ceased to be wayfarers- I was certain that they had loaded their carts and harnessed their determined looking oxen with an ocean voyage in mind- New Brunswick bound!!  Girodet’s “The Entombment of Atala” was not bereaving the death of his lover, but the loss of a family farm. Gericault’s gaunt survivors on the Raft of the Medusa stared longingly for home, imagining in the distance the poplar trees that line the driveway of my parents’ home. What incredible strength of feeling these artists transcribed with their brushes and oils! The wretched faces surrounding me were not comforting, though. Our shared misery did not relieve our suffering at all.

What was incredible about the torture of the Romantic paintings, was that we fell short of communion. Atala and I suffered in relative silence, validating each others’ pain without subduing or healing it. This is not a critique of the art. The expressions and emotions on the canvases were exquisite. But it is a common human pitfall that in recognizing our pain, we all too often venerate it, and give it a home in us. I have nothing against feeling strong feelings, but it is important for home sicknesses,  heartbreak and weariness to remember where they belong on the food chain. The priest at the hostel in Paris knew this, and spoke in his homily of how we should not always pray, “God, I have such a big problem,” but “Problem, I have such a big God!” I can’t spend my whole life commiserating with Delacroix.

Praying that prayer, I moved on from the Louvre to the Musée d’Orsay- where there hangs the most realistic portrayal of a cow in the known universe- by Rosa Bonheur. And that was home. Cows are not great sympathizers. But there is something about rural living, and livestock, that can snap you out of a reverie as if to say “Get back to work!” I walked out of Musée d’Orsay feeling ready to really live, to engage with the city, and ended up spending the afternoon making a new friend. I made a temporary little home in Paris.

So, I would like to thank the Romantics for helping me to feel and process, and the Realists for giving me courage and for kicking me in the butt. As far as art is concerned, I am gaining a valuable lesson in the importance of its movements. One perspective is never enough. Just as the needs, desires, and responsibilities of people change, our art needs to change as well. Try not to brush off a period in art as “too sentimental”, “to rigid”, “too absract”. Enjoy your favourites, of course, but art can be like cod liver oil. You might need what you don’t enjoy.