Raponi, Maria

by Alexandra and Rebecca Chipkin

Maria Raponi (1975 Toronto, CA) was the second artist in residence at F_AIR Florence Artist in Residence. She graduated with a BFA in photography from Ryerson University, an MFA in sculpture, photography and film/video in 2005 from School of the Museum of Fine arts Boston and an MFA in visual arts in 2005 from Tufts University. She has made work in many locations such as Toronto, Dortmund, and Delhi. Her works are diverse and range from dioramas based on film stills to photographs of ceilings made into light boxes. What is consistent throughout her work, though, is that they are mainly image-based. This interview focuses on her experience as an artist in residence in F_AIR gallery, and Florence in general.
The interview was conducted in Florence in October 2011

Alexandra and Rebecca Chipkin:
Why did you decide to take a residency program?
Maria Raponi:
Once in a while it’s nice to be in a different place, and not have your daily life be exactly the same as it normally is. Sometimes it’s easier to focus. It’s not ever really for just one reason. I guess it’s multiple things. I tend to work on my own projects and then I work on community projects and sometimes when I’m working on other projects I get wrapped up in them. And around that time I’m like – oh, I should focus on my own work, and at that point my mind goes to residencies. It’s sometimes nice, at that point, to be in a different space and environment. And also to be around a different community. I’ve worked at places where we’ve had people come in, and so I see how that resident effects the space and how there are benefits on both sides.

ABC:
Good. That leads us to the next question: why Florence? Why did you choose this residency specifically?
MR:
Florence was mostly – I guess, I have an Italian background but I haven’t spent much time in Italy. And so when I heard that there was a residency in Florence, I think actually at first I wasn’t sure if I would want to spend time in Florence. I was worried – I guess you hear so much about Florence and how it really is this renaissance city and all this stuff. And so I thought: it might be weird to stay in a city like that for four months and to be in a bit of a bubble. But at the same time I thought: oh, it would be really nice to, in some ways, just sort of have the time and get to see a lot of the works that I studied all the time and visit them and make work in that city.

ABC:
You have been here in Florence since August. Do you feel integrated in Florence? In the residency?
MR:
No. I don’t think something like this is possible in such a short time. As my time here passes, I do feel my connection to the city deepening. Small things, like running into people I know in the street and random serendipitous conversations with strangers, add layers to my connection with Florence. The people I have met through the school and on my own have been quite generous with their time and welcoming, but it would take me a long time before I could even imagine anything akin to feeling integrated within a city. The school itself is different. I live at F_AIR and through this I interact with students, professors and staff daily. It has allowed for friendships to develop quite easily and has fostered a strong sense of community almost immediately. From my very first day, everyone at all levels of the school has gone out of their way to make me feel welcome. I do mean all levels of FUA and not just F_AIR. Teaching at DIVA (Digital Imaging and Visual Arts department) allows me to connect more personally with people involved in other sections of the school and of course my students, but my relationship to the school expands constantly through the ongoing series of openings/events and though my daily activities. I was and am still amazed at how kind everyone is. Numerous people from across various departments at FUA have gone out of their way to ensure that I felt at home, took a personal interest in how I was doing and helped create a sense of community for me that feels quite genuine. It has been and it continues to be a rewarding experience on so many levels.

ABC:
What is your experience like – living in a gallery?
MR:
The gallery functions both a walkway for me to get in and out of my apartment and for the students to get to their classes. And so there’s a functional use to the space. But then there’s also that daily practice of walking through the gallery, for me and the students. Like all the shows o now [in the gallery] influence me. And so I think it changes the way that I would set up my exhibition – like it’s not a normal gallery – in a good way. Its multiple functions are important. In a sense it is, especially because it is an international school, it really is this tunnel or portal.

ABC:
Has your work changed since you have been at F_AIR?
MR:
Yes, but I don’t know how it cannot.

ABC:
Has the work that you are doing now changed from the project you proposed before the residency started?
MR:
Definitely. And I think it always does. For me it’s really strange to be in a place, think of a project – especially for a residency, not so much for a gallery show – it is strange for me to be in a different site, and compose something, and then come here, and do it. Because then basically, I did not ever have to walk into the space. I could have made the work and shipped it. And so being on both sides of the residency I feel like there’s a mutual exchange, and by doing that, you’re cutting off both really drastically. So the work I proposed is nothing like what I’m gonna make. There are relations to it. And when I was in Dortmund it was the same sort of thing. What I proposed – it was very different from what I ended up doing. And the reason I am talking about Dortmund is because that had a beginning and an end, and here [at F_AIR] I am not at the end point. The fact that I didn’t do the project that I proposed allowed for a lot more conversations. What I proposed would have been interesting, but it would be strange to follow through on it. What I proposed here are things that aren’t very much similar in my mind, but they are also works that I can do back in my studio; it doesn’t have to be here. And I am still thinking about them, and they do come into play. But I don’t feel a desire to make them right now. And I don’t feel an expectation on F_AIR’s side for me to make them. I think part of that is for me to get a sense, to start, and to come here and think of something so that there is something on the back of your mind to get things going.
ABC:
The work that you are doing is in preparation for your exhibit at the end of your residency. When is your exhibit and when does your residency end?
MR:
My exhibition will open on the first of December, and the residency will end just before the end of December.

Maria Raponi continues her collaboration with F_AIR, and in these very days [end of June 2012], she is visiting Florence, Florence University of the Arts, and some friends and partners. Maria will be part of New Shores: F_AIR Landings, a collective exhibition dedicated to art residencies, opening at F_AIR on November 8th, 2012, accompanying the SUNY Stony Brook conference at sQuola, this year dedicated to the theme “Florence in Italy and Abroad: From Vespucci to Contemporary Innovators”.