A love of an ancestral homeland expressed visually populates the Station House Gallery this month.
Williams Lake resident and artist Kathy Lauriente-Bonner was born and raised in a strong Italian-Canadian Household. Growing up, Lauriente-Bonner always considered herself as just a Canadian, until she visited Italy as an adult.
Visiting her ancestors’ homeland, her father’s family being immigrants, she quickly realized her Italian heritage had as much of an impact on her life as her Canadian heritage.
“Your culture is invisible to you, right, it’s just normal. It wasn’t until I went to Italy in 2010 when all of a sudden, literally from the moment we landed, it was like ‘Oh my God, I’ve come home!’,” Lauriente-Bonner described. “Everything was familiar and suddenly my whole life kind of made sense. It was like: This is why we do what we do and this is why we eat what we eat.”
This visit shifted her sense of cultural identity in a radical way, something that blew her away. Later on, she discovered her grandfather, an immigrated Italian, had also been a painter like her, with many of his works hanging in their house without Lauriente-Bonner ever knowing the true artist. As a way to honour him, one of his works is on display as part of her show, featured on an easel at its centre.
From her trip and newly-inspired love of her heritage, Lauriente-Bonner created many of the pieces that now grace the Station House as a part of the exhibit Mia Italia or My Italy.
“This show just sort of scratches the surface of some of the work that I’ve done from some of my travels in Italy. Some (are of) my favourite places and things that really stood out to me,” Lauriente-Bonner said.
Several of the pieces will be places past visitors to Italy or those learned in its history will easily recognize, such as Mount Vesuvius rising above the ruins of Pompeii. Others are still life, one wonderful work featuring a Vespa, and many have come from the photos Lauriente-Bonner took while in Italy.
In addition to the artwork, some of which is for sale, Lauriente-Bonner has also donated a dozen family photos tracing her heritage back to Italy, giving the show a deeply personal touch. Indeed, parts of the gallery now include a faux living room and dining table, further increasing the show’s homey and welcoming feel.
While much of the show is about her own experiences and the joy of travel, Lauriente-Bonner also hopes to change the conversation about immigrants by sharing her family’s story.
“The feelings around immigrants, there’s a lot of misconception around who immigrants are and quite frankly unless you’re of First Nations Ancestry we all come from immigrant stories and families,” Lauriente-Bonner said. “So the show is kind of meaningful to me in that way too, in terms of celebrating my own immigrant story.”
Artistically, she went for a very representational feel and while she often used photos as her base, she did not set out to perfectly recreate them. Lauriente-Bonner often used artistic license when it came to the colour palette she used in the paintings favouring vibrant colours that are seen throughout the gallery.
In addition to a sense of whimsy, Lauriente-Bonner really hopes that gallery visitors come away from her work thinking about their own cultural roots in new ways.
“A lot of the things that we do are often influenced by those cultural histories and we should kind of celebrate that, so I hope that’s also part of what people take away.”
In addition to the art, this month the Station House is selling raffle tickets at $20 a piece for the chance to win a five-course authentic Italian dinner cooked by Lauriente-Bonner.
On Nov. 20 the gallery will draw three winning tickets for the meal, which will be served on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Station House. Gallery.