Capturing the whimsy and raw creativity that draw so many to New York is no easy task. Italian contemporary artist Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi presents her playful interpretation of the Big Apple’s persona today at The Black Sheep art gallery in the San Cristoforo neighborhood of Milan. Along with 11 other international artists, called “SuperStars,” curator Paola Omboni aims to showcase the diversity of New York-inspired art.
Gabardi recently concluded her fourth exhibition at the Ward Nasse Gallery in SoHo as part of the 10th edition of Women in Art curated by Leda Maria Prado. After the exhibition’s opening night, she will remain in her hometown to resume her professorship at Milan’s I.E.D. University where she teaches a Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts course.
Gabardi’s artistic career began as a hobby during her college years while she earned a degree in political science from Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome. Completely self-taught, she finally gathered the courage to exhibit 30 of her pieces in Milan in 2010 after receiving positive feedback from friends and family.
“I was very coy and bashful about it. I never really thought this could become a profession,” Gabardi confessed.
She also wears several other hats as a film critic, journalist for the Italian and American press, art professor, screenwriter, and filmmaker.
The artist defines her paintings as “Material Puns,” a combination of mixed media that relates playfully and ironically to the title of the piece. Her style has been likened to the Dada movement and Pop Art, while her use of recycled materials has earned her the label of an “eco-artist.”
“I’m trying to up-cycle and give [materials] a new meaning and a new purpose,” she explained.
Six of Gabardi’s seven pieces in SuperStar’s exhibition also embody the relationship between materials and names.
“Every time I’d go back to Milan, I’d bring all sorts of wonderful experiences from New York. During the course of the years, I made several Material Puns about the Big Apple with the actual reference to the apple we all eat, and to New York City,” she said.
The only piece that deviates from this symbolism is titled, “American Lifestyle,” and what Gabardi defines as a tribute to America, rather than just New York City.
“We could say [the U.S. is] a country on wheels, and I tried to channel that message through my painting,” she explained.
Yet, on the whole, Gabardi’s artistic relationship with New York City is a positive and very personal one.
“It can be a bit fatiguing at times because she can be a bit like a school mistress. She puts you to the test, and you really have to prove yourself worthy. When you do put in all that effort, she proves to be very generous,” she explained.
In the future, Gabardi plans to exhibit her work in Asia. For now, she hopes those who attend the SuperStars exhibition will enjoy her playfully ironic interpretation of New York City. It is, after all, the apple of her eye.