Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Visit to Franco Alessandrini’s Studio

When I visited New Orleans with my book club in October 2007, we had the great pleasure of meeting up with several of my husband’s of relatives who live there. One evening, a couple of us went to visit Franco Alessandrini and his family for cocktail hour on the roof top of his studio home.

Franco is an internationally-known artist who has produced many public works around the world. He was born near Florence, Italy but came to live in New Orleans when he was the artist in residence for the World’s fair in 1984.

When we arrived at their home, Franco and his wife gave us a tour of the small storefront on the ground floor. I immediately recognized the centerpiece of the space, a model of the Monument to the Immigrants:

It is quite beautiful in this scale; I like how you can easily walk around the entire sculpture and see all features without having to crane your neck. The full-sized, marble statue is now installed on the riverfront near the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans where most immigrants actually first set foot on solid American ground.

This is how Franco describes the monument:

At the turn of the century many Italian immigrants came to this country, a large number of them through the port of New Orleans. This monument will commemorate and honor those who left their country to find something better for their future as well as their children's. The female muse is a symbol of hope in different civilizations. The star she holds represents guidance to the explorer toward his desire to find a new place and to achieve his dreams. Her gown, an inspirational and spiritual presence, flows over the figures of four immigrants forming a family nucleus. In each of their faces one can see the grim determination and courage they must have had to leave behind everything they knew. These people are being rendered from real photographs of their time to capture the proper wardrobe, detail and, most of all, the look in their eyes.

Being an immigrant myself, I’m always moved when I see this sculpture. It perfectly captures the ambivalence we felt when we set foot in New York in 1966. It did take a great leap of courage and determination for my parents to once again leave everything behind in hopes of a better future, yet we are still draped by the influence of our muse who points to our past experiences in the Netherlands and Indonesia.
On the mantle nearby, I noticed this sculpture and fell in love with it:
I admire how he celebrated and honored the jazz musicians of New Orleans:

Next we were invited upstairs to his studio where he was working on a plant series.

Right next to the studio is a lovely rooftop garden where we joined Franco and his family and friends for cocktails and hors d’oevres. They personify the image of Southern hospitality, both of the American and European varieties.

After drinks, to our great surprise and delight, Franco and his wife presented each of us with a poster of the Louisiana Alphabet he created. In 1984, it was declared the official alphabet by the governor.

Next time, I will tell you about some of Franco’s other works of art and show you what now graces his rooftop.

Top photo of the Immigrant Monument with the riverboat and the photo of the close-up of the immigrant face are from Franco Alessandrini's website.


julochka said...

thank you for taking us along on your visit! love the alphabet he created! :-)

Emily said...

I love the Monument to the Immigrants sculpture. It's really beautiful. The mom in me adores the alphabet, of course.

Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat said...

I've wandered over from visiting A Cuban in London. Thanks for sharing your visit to this wonderful artist's home and studio. Such beautiful art!

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Thanks for this beautiful guided visit - an artist's studio is a unique place and to visit one is always a great privilege..:)

A Cuban In London said...

I loved this post. I've heard so much about New Orleans and along with San Francisco and New York (I'm a Yankees fan) that's the other place I would love to visit. I've heard and read a lot about the migration to the area, but was completely unacquainted with the Italian influence. The second photo (top to bottom) is a beauty. Thanks a lot.

Greetings from London.

Anonymous said...
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paris parfait said...

Oh how fantastic! Thank you for sharing these lovely photos and the interesting account of your visit!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Julochka,
Thanks for joining me! I love the alphabet too. I especially like the turtle and pelican - they are not contrived in the least, yet they state the letter beautifully.

Dear Jemm,
I'm glad you like the monument - it's situated beautifully on the Mississippi River.

Dear Cecile,
Welcome to my blog, and thank you, Cuban, for sending her this way!

Dear Here, There...
I completely agree with you. It was a huge privilege.

Dear Cuban,
You would love New Orleans - the food, the drinks, architecture, art, music, people. Everything!

As for the Yankees, I'm afraid we will have to agree to disagree on that one. Perhaps if you come to San Francisco's ballpark, you will become a SF Giants fan.

Thanks for the compliment on the photo. The art is of course what makes this picture. I just pointed and shot.

Dear Paris,
I'm so glad you enjoyed my mini-tour.

Relyn Lawson said...

Oh, Diana. I love your posts. As usual, I am full of delight to be learning and soaking in beauty both at once. The jazz statue was amazing. It felt like a Cubist painting somehow. I also love the expression on the immigrant father's face, hope and fear all mingled together. That sculpture is truly amazing. I think the best part of it for me is the idea that an angel travels with them. I would be interested in hearing as much about your own immigrant experiences as you feel like sharing.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Relyn,
I love his jazz art also. One of the many things I love about New Orleans is how you will hear great jazz playing in every corner of the city.

I agree, the angel of the monument is truly an inspired component. Even though it’s been decades since the last time we emigrated, those experiences shaped the rest of my life. I will try to include more of my immigrant experiences, but I’m new to this public forum and it’s a little unnerving.

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