The Artist and the Family Home
I’ve always counted Praiano as one of my many blessings. When I started going there, I was drawn in by the warmth of family, good food, mythic views and the hospitality of the Praianesi.
My home was built by my ancestors who came from Tramonti, in the mountains above Amalfi, in the 1700s in order to escape cold, inhospitable winter weather. They would stay in their Praiano home overlooking the sea and the old Spanish watchtower, Torre a Mare, from October through April.
My arrival in Praiano took a different route, one that went from Italy to the US and back again. In 1929, my mother and grandmother followed my grandfather to New York, where his family had established itself. My grandmother eventually returned to Italy, to her family home in Praiano, but my mother remained in the States, where I was born and raised.
I didn’t begin visiting Praiano until the ‘70s to help care for my aging grandmother. Soon after, when I visited with my then new husband, the late American artist Sol LeWitt, my commitment to our home in Praiano was sealed.
Apart from its beauty and serenity, my husband Sol loved its historical place in my family. Having come from a Jewish family that lived all over the world and never stayed long in one place, my home with centuries of family history was particularly appealing.
With Sol and my extended family, we slowly restored the old villa and managed to create a small organic farm on its thirteen terraces.
The garden of Casa l'orto
Sol always thought of Praiano as a great place for artists, if for no other reason than its lack of distractions. He had hoped to complete a sculpture installation on our land that he called “my own Park Güell". But because of the many local land preservation restrictions, it became one of his few unrealized dreams.
Before he died, however, he did complete wall drawings in our home that he had planned when he was critically ill with cancer. The works represented his last expression of love for his family.
Sol always wanted to open our home to other artists, and in his honor my daughters and I decided to develop an Artist in Residence Program. The lack of adequate studio space and the impossibility of building one led us to concentrate on photographers. We developed our program with Jock Reynolds, the director of the Yale University Art Gallery, who was Sol's most important collaborators and mounted two important retrospectives of his wall drawings.
Thanks to Jock’s vision and the support Bob and Happy Doran, our home in Praiano, known as Casa l’Orto, now hosts world-renown photographers as part of the Bob and Happy Doran Artist in Residence program of The Yale University Art Gallery. We also have an ongoing collaboration with the Yale Sustainable Food Project, the brainchild of Alice Waters, to help preserve local farming and culinary traditions, and we host scholarly seminars in contemporary art led by Nicola Setari and Giiliana Carusi Setari of The Dena Foundation, Paris.
Finally, thanks to the enthusiasm of Clo and Stephen Davis, we are able to host Praiano Forums, an annual writer's workshop with authors such as Larry Bloom and Wally Lamb and the poet, Suzanne Levine.