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My Two Favorite Places, New York and Italy, Touched by the Coronavirus Pandemic

NYC, defined by its hustle and bustle and diversity, and Italy, by its poetry and natural beauty, are my inspiration. Today they are not themselves.

by Marlene Luce Tremblay

Tudor City Rooftop in New York. Photo Marlene Luce Tremblay.

In today’s artificial society, while nature is gradually vanishing, we are also longing for more humanity. What is the point of art if it’s not to help us lead better lives, to give us hope and to remind us that we are part of the same fabric? The values that we have promulgated since the post-war period and the excessive consumption contributed to the destruction of our beautiful planet.

It might seem strange to highlight my close ties between these two opposites, New York and Italy. On the one hand it’s about a concrete jungle and on the other, it’s about a nature and humanity with that sweet sense of “la dolce vita”.

New York, New York. Photo Marlene Luce Tremblay

After having lived in New York for almost ten years, I have created a family of friends whose diversity is an illustration of what makes this city a thriving place in which to live.  Rich with its diverse culture and the arts, it is also what the Italian diaspora so appreciates about the Big Apple, hence the reason why these two places so resonate with my creative work.

Today’s pandemic has also touched both places a great deal, where people are suffering beyond words. As an artist, I can feel the pain and the anguish on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the Big Apple, cultural diversity is what fascinates me and although I’m no longer a New Yorker, I feel deeply connected to the social fabric of its communities, which is the true wealth of New York.  During the lockdown, as a result of this pandemic, the city is like a ghost town which demonstrates how important it is for people to mingle and to socialize.  The city is now devoid of its very soul for it is now the epicenter of the pandemic.

While I was living in New York, I was inspired by the aspect of its diversity and created two series about Women and Men of New York.  The statement of both exhibitions was to demonstrate and to celebrate its diversity which, in my view, is so enriching.  Each story line gave an insight into the lives of people coming from all corners of the world to New York in the hope of building a new life. They came from Albania, Algeria, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Ecuador, France, Iraq, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, the Philippines and Tunisia.

In many cases, they had to overcome a great many hurdles while breaking free from the restraints of their own culture and to overcome the pain of being away from their family.  Most of them are risk takers and empower one another, especially in the case of women, building strong ties with people of any ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religious affiliation.  Their resilience and strength are what created the very fabric of New Yorkers living in a concrete jungle while striving for a better world through their contribution to society.In my interview about these exhibitions by La Voce di New York, Vincenza di Maggio made reference to my statement:

“The true wealth of New York can be found in its people, the city dwellers, who bring a sense of community. This is also a place where different strata of society live side by side. New York can be described as a concrete jungle, however, the human element is what makes it a great city.”

Love in Manhattan. Photo Marlene Luce Tremblay

In today’s artificial society, while nature is gradually vanishing, we are also longing for more humanity.  What is the point of art if it’s not to help us lead better lives, to give us hope and to remind us that we are part of the same fabric?  The values ​​that we have promulgated since the post-war period and the excessive consumption contributed to the destruction of our beautiful planet. This presumed wealth in the Western world has also contributed to inequality around the world, while obscuring much of society here and elsewhere.

Our humanity is also connected to the natural world and needs to live in harmony with nature if human life is to survive.  Creativity, as Matisse said, takes courage, and humanity will need courage to create ways to live in harmony with nature.  This is why I am so inspired by Italy for the beauty of its natural landscape with its history, its architecture, its high culture and of course, its people who are refined and who know how to live la dolce vita.  During my stay, I met some wonderful and professional people with whom I collaborated for my exhibitions.

I had the chance of spending a few months in Lake Como for two of my exhibitions that took place at Villa Carlotta which can be described as not only a museum, but also a botanical garden, an ode to its natural beauty.  Needless to say, my creativity was thriving in such natural beauty.  I found myself immersed in the poetic setting on the lakeside Villa Carlotta, built at the end of the 17th century.

Lake Como. Photo Marlene Luce Tremblay.

Being an artist, I wish to touch people with art, not only as aesthetic experience, but also as a way to give meaning to life.  My life, as that of many other people, has been made of layers of understanding as to why I am here and what’s the meaning of it all.  As I get older, I realize that all experiences have enriched my life, whether they were made of joy or of pain. I am aware that a great many people experience pain greater than I can ever imagine, especially now with the global pandemic, especially in Italy which was its European epicenter.

I created a series about love entitled Love in Lake Como: Humanity and the Natural World Living in Harmony, for I sincerely believe that without love, one cannot survive—nor can humanity.  The series was inspired by the sculptures of Italian neo-classical masters existing in seamless harmony with Lake Como’s natural landscape.  There are many ways to love and it all starts with an appreciation of life, the natural world and humanity living in harmony.

Finally, the tale of two opposites on both sides of the Atlantic: New York, as the concrete jungle, and Italy’s poetic setting in its mesmerizing landscape, share the same fabric of humanity in their struggle against an invisible enemy.  Faced with death on the horizon, we are all one in this global pandemic.  Stay home. Stay safe. Save lives.

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