Return to Venice

In July, 2022, I’d mounted my exhibition, Yoga: Interior and Eternal, in an art gallery affiliated with the Venice Biennale in Italy. I went there to install thirty floor-to-ceiling mixed media pieces. They all explored close examination of the joints in the female form, after having been twisted in yoga postures. The exhibit stayed up, as part of the six-month long Biennale. Now, in November, with the show still up, but due to close November 15, I yearned to return to Venice.

K.Kauffman, Toes18, archival pigment on silk, 96″x28″, 2022

Before July, I’d never been to Venice. I expected it to be special, but felt leery of the reputed stinky waters, trash floating in canals and mosquitos. Although I knew of its scenic splendor, I suspected the harsh realities of living there might push my experience toward the debit side. I certainly didn’t expect to fall in love.

But I did, feeling like a star-struck typical tourist. It helped that I saw no trash on the streets or in the water; it was all conscientiously collected by hand in boats or wheeled carts. The canals smelled fine. I got one mosquito bite that had no itch. Free from the negatives, I fully absorbed the joys of a car-free city: quiet and peaceful. The ancient buildings and churches cast their spell. The human-sized “streets,” (that looked like alleys to an American) created for walkers, not drivers, called me to traipse along them for hours. The accessible water buses and taxis made it simple to wander farther afield whenever I wanted. Hundreds of art displays lured me to savor countless hours of visual wonders.

By the time I left in July, I announced to the gallery owner that I would return near the end of the exhibit in November, although my presence wasn’t required. To think up a good reason to return, I offered to give a workshop demonstrating my painting techniques, which the gallery gratefully accepted. I also vaguely planned to network with other artists and gallery people. 

However, my real reason to return to Venice was to simply be there. In November, I planned to stay three weeks, two weeks longer than necessary for my workshop. I wondered why I felt compelled to spend extra time, aside from the obvious sights, which I’d already seen.

I simply wanted to dwell, to absorb the ancientness, knowing centuries of feet had walked the same paths as me. In the cathedrals, untold numbers of prayers like mine had floated into the ether. As an American, I relished feeling thousands of years of human yearning that this spot so richly conveyed. I wanted to meditate in the churches, museums, parks, café tables and seaside. Tuning in to the millions of lives who lived here throughout history, whose weight I could see in the gentle indentations of each stone stair in a building: these made my grandiose ego seem small and only one of many humans in a long flowing stream. I found this soothing.

I intended to simply feel the light and movement of the place. In my body and soul, I felt good in Venice. The human-scale walkways and buildings, that were only as high as people could comfortably tread (4 stories or so), reflected the constant sparkles and movement of water. This combination created a vibratory atmosphere that attracted me. Light continuously bounced off of water onto buildings and scurrying people, illuminating all and binding them together, united in brightness. My time in Venice in July left me with this thrilling visual memory. I had to return.

2022 July 15-November 13
Kaethe Kauffman – Yoga: Interiore e Eterno (Yoga: Interior & Eternal)
Castello Gallery 925 Galleria
Venice, Italy