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The world in a canvas: impressions of a life lived intensely, in the art of Maria Ferrara

From Monet’s water lilies, admired for hours at the National Gallery in London, to those painted while observing the ponds of the historic ex-asylum Santa Maria della Pietà in Rome: Maria Ferrara’s art is the mirror of her life and her experiences, a mix and match between long periods abroad and Italian daily life. Maria Ferrara’s paintings range from still lifes, to landscapes, to flowers. “I prefer to paint in oil,” explains the artist, “I also use mixed media and, lately, acrylic.” Her canvases are colorful, tenuous, animated; they show the vivacity of her land, Sicily, united to the delicate northern European nuances.

Maria tells: “I spent my childhood in the province of Messina, a happy period in contact with nature, even if my father was far away: he was fighting in Libya. After my adolescence, I got married and, with my husband who had found a job there, I went to live in Lausanne”. During the fifteen years she spent in Switzerland, Maria Ferrara raised her three children in an environment where, despite the many differences with her homeland, she found a civil society and schools that facilitated her role as a mother. Maria Ferrara had a propensity for art from a young age. But her life parable shows how the organization of society can make a difference, especially in the path of a woman. The artist explains, “I thought of my children alone, since I didn’t have any close family members. But, since kindergarten, they were included in a healthy school environment; the teachers welcomed the children greeting them one by one, they took them outdoors even in the snow, they celebrated each one’s birthday with sobriety”. Returning to Italy, Maria and her family moved to a suburb of Rome, where the artist came up against bureaucracy, inefficiency and a school for her children that was not up to standard; in the background, the great social problems of Italy in the early 1980s, including terrorism, the underworld and the spread of drugs, with the consequent thoughts about the growth of her children. “Sometimes I would hide at the high school exit to see who they were hanging out with,” Maria confesses. After ten years in Italy, the artist again followed her husband’s work and, together with her youngest daughter, moved to England, where she had the opportunity to attend free courses in restoration and painting: “We had very efficient equipment and created works of art that were donated to charity auctions, often promoted by representatives of the Royal Household, such as Princess Anne or Lady Diana”.

After five years, Maria Ferrara returned to Rome and, with her children now independent, she embarked, somewhat by chance, on her professional artistic path. Maria recounts: “I was looking for a conversation course in English, to keep my knowledge of the language alive. But, while I was wandering around the classrooms of the school, I saw a series of canvases and colors and, asking for information, I was invited to come back a couple of times a week. I didn’t realize that, in reality, it was a course for patients of the nearby psychiatric hospital; so I started volunteering alongside Franco, a man who expressed himself in gestures, but understood everything.” Afterwards, Maria Ferrara took the brushes in hand and then enrolled in the art school of the municipality of Rome, which she attended for three years. Thus, she begins to participate in exhibitions and events and finds a personal style. The artist says: “With my works I would like to communicate beauty, thought, solidarity. In the paintings I reproduce the emotions that I have experienced, going in search of myself. In Australia I saw a sky that seemed to never end and I painted a canvas; with the same drive I painted the impressions of Mexico, where my daughter lives, or the walk on the pier in Cuba”. Maria Ferrara’s canvases have been shown in numerous exhibitions, from Japan to Sweden, from Puglia to Sicily, from Rome to Naples, and are present in museums and private collections.