A site-specific installation titled Studio, 2009. (Photos by San Suzie.)
If there is one recommendation I can make to anyone in the art industry at this moment of global doom, it is: Become really good friends with a fellow at the American Academy in Rome so that you can stay there. Located on a hilltop, above trendy Trastevere, the Academy houses more than two dozen fellows, who live in a McKim, Mead and White building and dine on a local foods menu inspired by Alice Waters. After long days of work and study, they retire to the well-tended garden, where they reflect on the day’s drinking thinking. It’s like a 19th century sanatorium for the nervous children of the well-to-do. I kept expecting to see a nurse rearranging patients in wicker wheelchairs on the patio.
I made it into the Academy as a free-loading guest of San Suzie. For a whopping seven days I hung out in what is effectively academia central, a geek’s wet dream of artists, architects and writers (many with advanced degrees) working on ambitious projects and thinking deep thoughts. There were recitations in Latin. A speech-laden meal that celebrated Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. And a champagne cocktail party for visiting artist Jenny Holzer. Party on, dudes! Any other spare moments I may have had were spent drinking cappuccinos in the company of a barista who told me I looked like Salma Hayek. Clearly, the Academy is an oasis from reality. Kinda like a Canyon Ranch for Ph.D.’s, but with open bar. All I gotta say is that it’s the bestest, smartest hotel I ever stayed at. Though some alum really needs to think about funding a hot tub.
Grazie, Academy and San Suzie! (And to Brad and Dona for loaning us their space.)
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Just after Thanksgiving, we were fortunate to attend the first international celebration of Nautical Waste, the smelliest art concept party — or any party, for that matter — we’ve ever been to. There was a sculpture made of rotting mussels and other sea detritus. (Pungent!) And the whole party ended with a re-enactment of the Roman sea victory at the Battle of Mylae…in a fountain.
Now in its sixth year, Nautical Waste is an annual seafaring celebration that takes place on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving. Started in Brooklyn by artists Marie Lorenz, the creator of the New York Tide and Current Taxi, Matt Lorenz and Melissa Brown, the event is part performance, part exhibit, and a great excuse to trawl your local coastline for stinky crap — then spend an evening building stuff with it while drinking grog, quoting Melville and wearing a pirate’s hat. This year the flotsam and jetsam washed up in three separate venues: Brooklyn, Banff, and the American Academy in Rome, where Lorenz is a fellow in the visual arts.
Stay tuned for more waterlogged adventures, because next spring, we will accompany Lorenz down the Tiber in a homemade boat, hopefully after getting nautically wasted.
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