When Spehar-Fahey began teaching watercolor at CLU in 2006, the Moorpark resident dreamed of taking a class to Venice to paint in the footsteps of her heroes William Joseph Mallory Turner and John Singer Sargent. She made it happen in 2011, when she and communication professor Dru Pagliassotti led their first two-week travel seminar to the Italian city. After taking a semester-long course in preparation, the students toured, sketched, painted and blogged their way through Venice. Spehar-Fahey and Pagliassotti plan to return with a new group of students in spring 2013.
Some of Spehar-Fahey’s paintings pay homage to her artistic heroes, capturing the city’s romance and jewel-toned light, while others address her place as yet another tourist confronted with the commercialized and familiar myth of the glorious Venetian empire. Some are about sharing Venice with students, while others deal with the technical challenges of painting architecture that meets water. All of them reflect her love for the city and the visual conversations it started.
Noisy throngs of tourists make today’s Venice different from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Whereas Sargent could hire a gondola for the day to paint where he pleased, a gondola ride today costs 100 euros for 45 minutes and affords the artist no time to set up an easel.
Thousands of artists before Spehar-Fahey have been inspired by the light, aging palazzos and history of the magical city built on the water, and also by one another. Almost 300 years since Canaletto inaugurated the tradition of “vedute,” or view-paintings of the Grand Canal, the visual conversation continues.
An artist’s reception will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15. Admission to exhibit and reception is free. The Kwan Fong Gallery is located in Soiland Humanities Center on the south side of Memorial Parkway near Regent Avenue. It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.