“I can describe my art practice as a challenge to add without distorting. I am interested in the fusion of fiction with reality, in representation as realization, in a relationship of continuity with being”
AT: Where are you from, and how/why did you start engaging with art?
LS: I am from Abruzzo, originally from Pescara, even though one part of my family comes from Naples, another from Salento, some from Molise, Veneto and France. My first contact with art began at a very young age, watching my mother draw and my father work in upholstery. Thanks to their vocations I approached the world of craftsmanship from a very young age.
AT: When did it become serious?
LS: In my high school days, I realized that I did not want to live in an office. My desire was to study art and make my sensibility a commitment to life. It took me a while before I started working professionally in the field. Studying Fashion Design for the first three years post high school between Milan and London and for the next two, at the Brera Academy of Costume for the Theatre. After finishing my studies, I started working on exhibitions.
AT: Is there someone who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
LS: There have been people on the path who have definitely helped me make certain choices rather than others. I am talking about my dance teachers (I have been taking ballet and contemporary dance classes for more than ten years), some university professors, in the Directing and Drawing courses as well as artists, curators and in general professionals in the field with whom I have had a deeply constructive confrontation. I do not feel like mentioning one or more particular cases but certainly what unites the memory of these encounters is that they have been able to convey to me a profound sense of humility.
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
LS: My initial approach to the work is my initial approach to the space. Wherever I am, when I think about a work, I start by looking around, there are always details in the places we inhabit that offer cues for deep reflection. I rely on the possibilities of the space completely, whether this is the ultimate place that will host my project or not. The physicality of place is then often joined by particular words and texts, either written by me or by authors in whom I have taken refuge for years. I can describe my art practice as a challenge to add without distorting. I am interested in the fusion of fiction with reality, in representation as realization, in a relationship of continuity with being. Therefore, I often work for ephemeral interventions, designed ad ok for a place in its historical moment. Theater and performance disciplines ground the heart of my research. That is why I elaborate and construct by reasoning about the ideas of movement and relationship between polarities such as public-work, work-space, space-public, public-artist, artist-work by including an action to my achievements: “…circulating like seeds the fruits of an action.”
“Troppo Umano” | Flebo, metal trolleys, foam rubber, dekapermanent colours, paint, synthetic striped curtain on carpet | Environmental dimensions | Exhibition view at MACAO Milano, 2018
AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?
LS: To think of a goal would mean for me to reduce the work to a mere exercise in style. I don’t think any of my work has a particular purpose, but each new production definitely fits into the circle of reasons why I started being an artist or why I couldn’t do anything else.
AT: What are your favorite tools and materials for working?
LS: I like to work with light and easily perishable materials. Out of professional and family strain I often choose fabric and stuffing materials such as foam rubber, but I also really enjoy drawing, writing, working with paper and photography.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the outcome beforehand?
LS: While I work, I usually don’t think. My energy is focused on the production process, and perhaps that is one of the reasons why I love what I do. I sense a deep sense of emptying. And the work most of the time comes of itself, maybe I start with an idea of a work that I have but end up making something completely different than the expectations I had of it.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
LS: When I no longer feel the need to add the work is finished. It achieves a balance in relation to the context that requires no further modification. Sometimes it is others who make me understand. I value the advice and taste of people I trust who, importantly, do not work in the art field.
“The Beauties #2” | Hand-dyed fabrics on foam, laser cut 80×30 cm, 210×50 cm | Environmental dimensions | Exhibition view at T-Space Milano, 2017
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
LS: Yes, there are many in a different way. The generation of artists that developed in Europe in the years from the 1950s to the 1970s is definitely a reference point for me. But they are joined by other artists of the 1900s (one among many David Lynch) who influence my work more with words than with their artistic production, which I like a lot anyway. I am surely less influenced by my generation, about which I do inform myself but in which I often do not find myself.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
LS: I find social media as a good tool for spreading one’s cv, circulating photos and various details about exhibitions and events one takes part in. They are also a chance to arouse curiosity, conveying information at times of research and production. But they are not essential for me, perhaps because not having studied them more specifically I cannot fully exploit their potential or perhaps because the constancy they require does not belong to me.
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
LS: I think that like any other contemporary system it has great shortcomings, and I am referring especially to the national one for which I have often thought of leaving Italy. The art system should be, by definition, an organic and unified mode of connection whereby an artist should feel part of something that understands, respects and protects him. Instead, my perception of it today is of a rusty and elitist mechanism that struggles to carry forward the ideals from which it originated. I do not repudiate it entirely, there are several exceptions through which my work has grown, but I struggle to have a dialogue with it.
“Freschi Pensieri” | Spray painting on concrete | Aqua Water Park, Corralejo, 2021
AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?
LS: I think the most challenging and at the same time the most rewarding aspect of living as an artist lies in the freedom. The freedom to manage decisions, time, places, and relationships and the resulting responsibility that comes with it so that if, for example, a job doesn’t work out you can’t blame anyone and you shouldn’t (SHOULDN’T) blame yourself either. I think the artistic freedom can be compared to a mystical vocation for which beyond a certain point you have to know how to trust and rely.
AT: What do you do besides art?
LS: Besides art, I practice and teach yoga with great love for the discipline and philosophy that comes with it.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
LS: I have no particular expectations. Like most of us, I hope to be able to collaborate with professional and rewarding realities while still managing to maintain the same feeling and free approach to artistic reality as when I started out.
Spring Cleaning | Live Performance at Ex-chiesa di Santa Rita, Rome, 2021
Letizia Scarpello (Pescara, 1989) lives and works between Pescara and Milan. She studied Fashion Design at the Marangoni Institute, graduating in London in 2011. She continued her studies taking a second degree in Scenography - Costume for the Performing Arts at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in 2015. Drawing from theatre and the performing arts, the works of Letizia Scarpello inscribe a space-time reasoning in a series of abstract, often politically oriented signs. Her language multiform maintains a pictorial background thanks to the manual technique that inherits its nobility from tapestry and weaving.