-Have you ever been annoyed with being asked a question like “What does your art mean”? Or questions like that?-
“Yeah I get that all the time…If there was an easy way to put it to words you wouldn’t need to create something visual, necessarily. I think some of the strongest visual work is difficult to explain in plain language because if it were easier to explain in plain language you would’ve used plain language. You’re using the medium that’s appropriate to what you’re trying to express and get across. I mean, if you think of abstract art, what is it? I don’t know! It resonates in some way, it’s impactful, it’s bold, and it makes an impression on you.”
Table of Contents
- 1 Estratto
- 2 Abstract
- 3 Domande Rapide con Ivano
- 4 Una Conversazione dell’Arte
- 5 Una Conversazione dell’Eredità Italiana
- 6 Galleria di Fotografie
- 7 Guarda la Webpage di Ivano!!
- 22.214.171.124 “There’s something magical about painting. I remember my relatives, my aunt and uncle had a cheesy painting they bought on one of their trips to Italy and brought back with them. A scene of Venice with some clown holding balloons or something, but done in such an odd way and they had it right in the doorway of their house. Every time we went to their house for dinner and we were leaving, everyone was kind of gathered around putting their shoes on and jackets on and the painting just happened to be right there at eye level so it always generated some discussion. My uncle loved it, my cousin hated it, my dad didn’t like it so it just got this freakish conversation about art going. And I don’t know but that kind of stuck with me. Why did the artist paint the balloons in quite that way, there was one balloon that was just black and looked like a hole in the painting. We just talked about whether that was deliberate or not, was that just bad painting, was that what the artist intended to do? That just stuck with me… I guess this stuff just comes unexpectedly sometimes.”
- 126.96.36.199 – Ivano Stocco
- 7.1 Related
Published by : Nicole Smith
Ivano Stocco è di prima generazione canadese in la sua famiglia. È nato a Guelph con la sua sorella Elena e ha due genitori che sono immigrati italiani. Cresceva a Guelph e poi, ha fatto l’educazione post-secondario all’Università di Toronto. Non ha fatto l’arte seriamente fino a si è spostato in Spagna dopo vivendo in Inghilterra per un paio di anni, insegnare a una scuola. Quando è arrivato in Spagna, ha iniziato a dipingere a plein-air che è dipingendo all’aperto le scene proprio di fronte a te. Ha cominciato a ricevere attenzione per i suoi dipinti, entrando la sua arte nelle competizioni, e guadagnando un po’ di soldi. Ha incontrato sua moglie in Spagna (la paese in cui è nata) e alla fine si sono spostati in Italia per un paio di anni. Lui ha continuato la sua pratica artistica e ha iniziato ad avere più successo. Sua moglie ha accettato una posizione di insegnamento come una professoressa della storia all’Università di stato di California Fullerton che è dove vivono con i loro figli. A Ivano piace tornare a Guelph per visitare la sua famiglia, chi vivono in Guelph, e sperimentare la sua infanzia ancora. Aveva cresciuto in una casa fortemente italiano, in uno vicinato primariamente italiano e gli piaceva mangiare i pasti tradizionali fatti in casa, va alle riunioni di famiglia, cresce le relazioni con i suoi vicini italiani, e imparando la lingua italiana. Anche gli piaceva ed abbracciato la sua identità canadese dalle scuole in cui è andato, le amicizie che ha fatto e naturalmente da giocare a hockey.
Ivano Stocco is a first generation Canadian and was born in Guelph with his sister Elena to two Italian immigrant parents. He grew up in Guelph from childhood to adolescence and then moved on to post-secondary education at the University of Toronto. He had not taken art seriously until he eventually moved to Spain after living in the UK for a couple years where he taught Information Communication Technology at a high school. Once in Spain, he got very into the plein-air painting experience, which is painting outdoors what is right in front of you. From there he started getting noticed, entering his art in competitions, and earning some money. He met his wife in Spain (the country she was born in) and they eventually moved to Italy for a couple years. He continued his artistic practice and began to have more success as an artist. His wife accepted a teaching position in California as a professor of History at California State University Fullerton where they now currently live with their children. Ivano loves coming back home to Guelph to visit his family, who still lives here, and experience his childhood again. He was raised in a strong Italian home in a primarily Italian neighbourhood and enjoyed traditional homecooked meals, family gatherings, creating relationships with his Italian neighbours, and learning the Italian language. He also enjoyed and embraced his Canadian identity through the schools he went to and friends he made in Guelph and of course from playing some hockey.
*All interviews were conducted in English*
Domande Rapide con Ivano
1. Qual è stato il tuo pasto italiano preferito fatto in casa?/What was your favourite homecooked Italian meal?
That’s easy, polenta con bacalà, or cornmeal with salt cod. Both my mom and grandmother made it on special occasions. I also remember vividly the cured meats we made once a year in the basement with a butchered pig from the Mennonites, especially the cotechino my mom would boil for hours in a pot.
2. Hai avuto degli animali mentre cescevi?/Did you have any pets while you were growing up?
A cat named Meech. We got him as a kitten from an Italian neighbour in the Ward who raised everything you can imagine in his garage: pigeons, chickens, rabbits, goats… He was the runt of the litter but turned out to be a real scrapper, beating up all the other neighbourhood cats and even dogs.
3. Hai dei fratelli o sorelle?/ Do you have any siblings?
A sister, Elena.
4. Ci sono dei detti italiani che ricordi i tuoi genitori (o altri membri della famiglia) stanno dicendo?/Are there any Italian sayings that you remember your parents (or other family members) saying?
A lot that seemed to end with “un lavoro ben fatto,” or work done well. Either do it well or don’t bother, something like that. My family took a lot of pride in that.
Then I remember being called a testa dura (hard head) and gnoco (either silly dumpling or silly lump, depending) a lot, for some reason.
There were also a fair number of mild expletives: porco cane (pig-dog), dio cane (God-dog), etc., which we were never allowed to repeat but heard all the time.
5. Hai mai rotto un osso o avuto una ferita cattivo?/ Have you ever broken a bone or had a bad injury?
I broke my ankle twice, once running in a forest and another time playing hockey. Ouch.
But my most trying injury has been psychological. I think most artists use their art to explore or salve trauma of some sort. I think I’m probably doing that too.
6. Hai un attrezzo artistico preferito (come un pennello) che usi sempre?/Do you have a favourite artist tool (like a paintbrush) that you always use?
Yeah, painters are supposed to use paint brushes, right? But I prefer scrapers and other cheap metal tools from the hardware store. I also still finger paint like a toddler.
7. Dove i tuoi genitori hanno vissuto in Italia prima di venendo in Canada? Quanti anni hanno avuto quando loro sono immigrati?/Where did your parents live in Italy before coming to Canada? How old were they when they immigrated?
My mom came over from a town called Pordenone in the ’50s. She was still a kid, 7 or 8, and came with my grandmother. They lived in downtown Guelph and on Alice St. in the Ward. My grandmother started off as a domestic servant and retired from a place called Harter as a chair upholsterer. My mom always worked as a secretary.
My dad came from a place near Treviso, Castelfranco, the birthplace of Giorgione, in the ’70s when he was 23 or 24. He was a steelworker at Durose on Elizabeth St.
I was born in 1975.
My parents came straight to Guelph but I have other extended family members that settled in Kitchener, Montreal, and North Bay. In Italy I had an aunt who moved to Sicily, but otherwise everyone else remained in Veneto and Fruili.
Una Conversazione dell’Arte
(Interview was conducted in English)
Nicole (N): Did you ever take art classes in University?
Ivano (I): I studied um… I took some art classes but I don’t have a degree in art. Most of the art education I have has come from other places. I took workshops and studied with some artists that I admired and liked but not so much at the academic level. I don’t know, in some ways I think it would’ve killed me. I know I’ve got a lot of friends that went to art school and then they just drop it entirely afterwards. It was too much… They were so turned off in the end that they said “oh that’s enough of doing art, period”. I find that a shame, I don’t know. That didn’t happen to me – I kinda – I studied other things and always had an interest in art and I did it, on the side more as a hobby and then jumped into it more professionally later on. Yeah, I don’t know – the success rate – the people that go through art school and then actually become artists is abysmal, it’s less than 1% or something.
N: Yeah it’s unfortunate.
I: It is unfortunate.
N: Such a big market too and a big amount of people that are doing it. It’s a lot of competition.
I: It’s very competitive, yeah, I’m finding that here in California even more so than in Ontario or other places I’ve been. Very cut-throat, competitive.
N: Did you notice, like, you’ve been in Guelph, you’ve been in Spain, you’ve been in Italy, now you’re in California, did you notice that –
I: I’ve been in the UK for a few years.
N: Oh you’ve been in the UK too? So is there like a European art vibe and then a North American art vibe kind of? I think one side of art is like the market and the business side and then I guess another side is just being the artist, and you’re talking about doing a lot of plein-air painting and just how the environment is…
I: Yeah, yeah…There’s just a different vibe in general as to what people appreciate. I find that in Europe at least when I lived there, than in North America. But in terms of the marketing, the sales, the survival side of things as an artist, it’s um, it’s not easy in Europe either. It’s very competitive there too, there’s a lot of people that do art and do it pretty darn well. You know like, um, traditional kind…Their educational model in the arts is different than in North America. I think it’s not as theoretical so they really come out of art schools having done a lot of drawing and a lot of paining, a lot of – uh – stuff you’d imagine Renaissance artists having done. A World Academy approach to doing art. And so, if you’re doing something like plein-air painting, which they tend to appreciate more than people do in North America, they’re really good! And fast and ambitious! They do these big pieces and they take your breath away looking at them, after you’re just like “wow, how did they pull that off in a couple of hours?”. Stuff like you haven’t seen in other places. Or I go out with my friends there and we just sketch with sketch books around the city or something, the stuff they do just kind of knocks my socks off…Whereas if I do the same in North America with friends I find people are more, um, they push the conceptual stuff more it’s not that it requires dexterity or skill at drawing per se, but their way of thinking about it is maybe different. There’s more of a push to be original about it and less so in Europe. It’s more – it’s not that it’s not original but there’s just a weight of classical art there that hangs over things that makes it difficult to push out and, say do abstract. Abstract art I don’t find is as appreciated.
N: Yeah, over in Europe.
I: And this varies, so when I lived in Italy I mean there’s still really a hold into the Renaissance, you know art that’s 500 years old. They just see it. It’s in the galleries, it’s what’s in the air so the artists that are even alive and doing stuff today tend to do knockoffs of that kind of art. In Spain it’s similar too. People will tend to do stuff that is reminiscent of Goya or Velázquez sort of these artists that are big in Spain. In the UK it’s kind of a mix between some of the continental European art and some North American, it’s a little more – there’s more of a punk aesthetic, there’s more pop art, there’s stuff that you don’t see much of at all in France, Italy, Southern Europe.
N: That’s very interesting.
I: And North America it’s just a different.. I don’t know. See even within North America I find there’s a huge divide between the east and the west coast. I’m still feeling my way around what people tend to appreciate in the west coast. It strikes me as more superficial. Depictions of gas stations and commercial life and stuff so people tend to be really into that or Andy Warhol and that sort of aesthetic of doing art is big. On the east coast it’s not – it’s still more – it has a European flair to it. The stuff I do goes over better on the east coast. The stuff I sell here tends to be to people who are from the east coast or visiting and then they take it back with them…(Talking about his own art…) If it’s abstract it’s kind of abstract in the sense of the abstract expressionists. It’s gestural, it’s got an urban quality, the colours are vibrant. I don’t find that goes over well in the west coast so much.
N: I mean, I’ve looked through your art and I’ve noticed all the colour that’s in it so I figured that that would be perfect for the west coast and I’m a little surprised that the east coast has more of an affinity towards it. It just seems like, so vibrant. I guess on the east coast, at least in Canada and probably in America, there’s the houses near the ocean. They’re always very vibrant colours so maybe it reminds them of their home.
I: Possibly yeah, I’m struggling here in California. I can’t put my finger on it, I don’t know what it is. Everything feels very new still on the west coast. It doesn’t have the weight of history that the East Coast has and the immigration patterns are even different, it’s very Latino, Mexican, and Asian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese to some extent. Those two big groups of people for the most part… You don’t have a lot of you know like, Italians. You don’t have a lot of Italians in California the way you do in Ontario and New York and places like that…You don’t have the nice weathered brick or some of that stuff you see and the red brick stuff you see all over Guelph. You don’t see any of that in LA.
N: So can people come into your studio and see your art or see your work space and that kind of stuff?
I: People do a little, yeah. Yeah when I was living in Guelph and Toronto I was always on the Guelph Studio tour and so I would open up once a year for that and people would come through and I’ve done the same in other places. Space is a real premium here (LA), real estate is pricy so I’m just working out of a double garage. Some people have come around, yup. I know some artists don’t like that but I’m fine with it.
N: I think that’s fun.
N: So just for a timeline of when you were living in these places. Were you in Italy first? That was the first place you lived other than Canada?
I: No, no, I lived in Italy before coming to California.
N: Ok so Spain was the first place?
I: I lived in Spain for 6 years for quite a while and going back and forth. My wife’s from Spain so we’ve got a lot of family there and our first daughter was born there and it’s a lot of connections. I had a good go of things as an artist in Spain so whenever there’s an opportunity to go back and both visit family and reconnect with the life we had there we tend to take it on… I was in Spain for 4 consecutive years and then back and forth for months at a time to Canada and Spain, but all told it was 6 years and then it’s been visits since then…But actually before living in Spain I lived in the UK for a couple of years. Straight out of university I moved to London and found work there as a teacher.
N: And was that a teacher for the courses that you were taking in university? Like not art courses?
I: No that wasn’t art, I was a high school teacher for years. I went to the University of Toronto and then at the time I graduated there wasn’t any work in Toronto or it was tough to break in as a teacher so I went off to the UK and found work there in London teaching high school. And I was teaching something called ICT Information Communication Technology. It was a combination of basic computer skills and media and communication and stuff. Don’t ask me why I found that, it was a school that needed someone to teach that *laughs* and I managed to convince them I could do it. Yeah I had a degree in history so.
N: Do you know what side you get your artsy side from? Would you say it’s from your mom or your dad or a mix of both?
I: Man, I don’t know. There wasn’t a lot of art in my house to be honest growing up. Or in the whole family really…
My parents both grew up on farms so on both sides it’s very rural like that. And for them immigrating to Canada was the first time they had lived in cities really and then it was mostly just having any job and surviving and getting by so there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on art or music. I grew up playing hockey and soccer and working in factories. Even going to university wasn’t a serious consideration until my very last year of high school. Even then I kind of smartened up and thought “Maybe. Everyone else seems to be going off to university I could consider doing this”. Even then I did an apprenticeship in brick lane and plastering before I decided that was just too hard *laughs* and went to university instead. And so it was only really when I hit university that I got more serious about art. I don’t know, all throughout high school and earlier on I seemed to have some artistic talent and – uh – I had one of my art teachers from high school come through and visit my studio in Guelph when we were there and she remembered all kinds of stuff about me and being in art class and some of the projects, stuff I couldn’t even remember myself…But I don’t know, my dad worked in steel…He would make railings and try – like I could see he was trying to do something artistic and even now that he’s retired he’s built a little shack in the back of his place and he’s got some steel manufacturing equipment and he’s making small little garden sculptures and welding stuff and selling a little bit of it so there is an artistic side there. And my mom was good always with – she worked as a secretary – so she was always good with words because that was her job. So she read a lot and had an interest in books, she brought me to libraries and got me into reading so I grew up as a reader. Someone with a strong hobby interest in doing art. That’s probably the extent of it. And then maybe going to visit relatives in Italy and they would bring us to Venice and just walking around places like that were pretty inspiring. I can’t say anyone pulled me aside and said “hey you should try being an artist” or ”have you considered this?”. That moment didn’t happen for me until I lived in Spain really. I couldn’t work at the time because I didn’t have legal status, but I started doing these painting contests where there was money involved and I did abysmally initially but then slowly got better. And then some artists did say to me “hey you should keep at it and see where it goes”… I haven’t looked back since that point.
The conversation moved into talking about being an artist…
I: It’s definitely grounding… for the most part. I don’t always find that’s the case. It can be as aggravating as anything. When you’re working through stuff and it frustrates you – artists are never really happy with what they make. So you make something and you tend to be – in my experience – the most critical person of your own stuff. That just pushes you forward though into the next thing, it’s like “ok let me try that again and see if I can do myself better than last time” sort of thing. And it never quite happens and you just keep at it in the same way. For me it’s very painful to see art that I’ve done, you know, hanging somewhere five years ago and there it is and I’m like “oh man”. I want to take it down and edit it and change it and put it back up *laughs*. It’s some of what you just need to live with. I think for the most part there’s a therapeutic quality to it.
N: Have you ever been annoyed with being asked a question like “What does your art mean”? Or questions like that?
I: Yeah I get that all the time…If there was an easy way to put it to words you wouldn’t need to create something visual, necessarily. I think some of the strongest visual work is difficult to explain in plain language because if it were easier to explain in plain language you would’ve used plain language. You’re using the medium that’s appropriate to what you’re trying to express and get across. I mean, if you think of abstract art, what is it? I don’t know! It resonates in some way, it’s impactful, it’s bold, and it makes an impression on you. And anything you can explain away with words just wouldn’t have that same impact. It’s very uniquely designed for visual expression. Same with music, I think. If you try to explain a song to somebody who’s never heard the song, it always comes out flat. There’s only so much you can talk around it so that’s why you use music to express whatever that idea is that you as the artist is trying to get across…
…I’ve done gallery shows and now I tend to do more fairs. Fairs where I’m there. And so, I get everything at those things, you know. People that know a lot about art, that know nothing about art, it’s just the public and it just ranges from: “why would anyone put that up on their wall?” kind of thing, you know people saying that to me, “that doesn’t make any sense, what the heck is that, tell me what that means”. The other way I think of it is that they’re conversation starters. Like yeah, I’ve done my job, I’ve met you half way by creating this thing and putting it out in the world and don’t be a lazy viewer. Look at it, try to find something in it, and you tell me what you’re seeing. Because you as the artist should be equally interested in hearing what other people are interpreting or what they find in your art that you may not necessarily. The catch 22 of being a good artist is that you have to have a thin skin and be sensitive and pick up on stuff and notice things that others don’t, but then when it comes to showing your work or selling the work, that’s very – it’s very brutal. You have to just let it roll off, you have to have a thick skin for that. And so many artists can’t handle that end of things…It’s not my job to explain it all to you, it’s my job to create something intriguing and then if it’s not working for you, it’s not working for you. If you don’t understand then I’m not going to explain. I often don’t know! And I’m fine with that. I don’t know. You have to learn to live with some ambiguity – I think, as an artist, and others that see things in very black and white ways don’t feel as comfortable as maybe artists do. I don’t know, when I’m working through the art I’m often not happy with how things are going and it’s kind of like okay, persist, hang in there, see where this is bringing you, and that doesn’t make sense, that does make sense, this whole why the hell am I doing this at all? It’s kind of this back talk in your head that you need to fight off. I think the practice of doing the art and dealing with yourself and these kinds of questions it helps you deal with others – the stuff that other people then bring to you doesn’t’ feel any more damaging necessarily than what you subject your own self to. I don’t know, am I sounding like a total… am I making any sense? *laughs*
N: No, no I think you sound just right. Total sense to me, for sure.
I: I don’t have any magic solution, I just have some experience. Again, like one of the most difficult things for me is that idea, you know, you really need to be sensitive. I think artists are very sensitive people and they just pick up on stuff that a lot of people ignore or pass over. Or they tap into things that other people can’t be bothered with…If you’re doing something provocative there’s people that really don’t like that sometimes. And they’ll tell ya… they’ll tell ya…
…In Spain I felt that people – I would do a lot of plein air work just out on the streets, and people don’t tend to have much of a filter there so if they think something it just comes right out. I had people saying that it looked like crap, what I was doing. That the guy over there was doing a way better job, or why are you painting that that colour. Or people that would stick their finger in my painting and try to correct what I was doing *laughs*. Very sort of bold and rude stuff sometimes.
N: It’s so opinion based, though, just the whole art world.
I: I get more frustrated with people – I mean – if people are honest and they just come out and say “oh I don’t understand what you’re doing” or “I don’t like it”, that’s fine. For me, what’s more aggravating is just the “oh that’s cool, oooh”. Just very simplistic language, there’s no real effort to engage, it’s just kind of “oooh”. And they’re there with their little dog or something and, you know, “nice, great, keep it up!”. That stuff doesn’t do a lot for me. Like if you hear it enough, at some of these shows where 1000 people can come through you can only hear “that’s cool” so many times before you’re like “okay, can’t you come up with something a little more elevated?”. I appreciate when people stop and I can see they’ve looked a little bit, and they chat for a minute with you even, it makes the world of difference than someone who just comes through and goes “oh that’s great, see you later”.
Una Conversazione dell’Eredità Italiana
N: If you were to say the countries that you felt the most at home in would you say that the UK was one of them or is it more Canada and Spain that you felt like this is kind of like going back to home when you go back and visit them?
I: Yeah, no, I feel at home in Canada because my parents are there, my sister is there, I grew up there in Guelph so certainly there. And then Italy because half my family is still in Italy so a lot of cousins and relatives that are there and as a kid we went back and forth, we spent some summers there. And then Spain through my wife and having lived there so long. The UK not so much, I don’t know, it felt very foreign for me being there. And I grew up with a lot of anti-English attitudes in my household *laughs*. The English this, the English that. So I kinda went there fairly prejudice. But I changed living there. Living in London is not like living in the boonies of England, it’s very cosmopolitan. People from every part of the world, even more so than Toronto I would say. So no it was a good experience.
N: Did your parents speak a lot of Italian at home?
I: Yeah they did! I grew up speaking it. I speak in a dialect, but I made an effort to learn the standard proper Italian…I speak Spanish well, but I picked that up later. With the Italian background it was fairly easy because they’re very similar kinds of languages.
I: I have a series called The Ward. Which was just depictions of The Ward in Guelph which, nothing to write home about necessarily, but in a large way that’s – I mean, I grew up in the Ward. And that was a part of Guelph that was settled by a lot of Italians. It was the first wave of non-Anglo Protestants to settle in Guelph that then moved out of the – initially, the downtown – and then were pushed out into the Ward. So a lot of the homes you see the red bricks and it’s changing now, I mean, it’s not what it was, but there was a time when it was a pretty solidly Italian-Canadian part of town and very sort of working class, and people doing construction work and factory work and that kind of stuff. I don’t know I’ve sort of – I’ve held onto a bit of that aesthetically I think in what I’ve done and even just doing that series on the Ward kind of touches on it. You know, people in Guelph were thrilled about it, for some reason. A lot of people have been through that neighbourhood and have connections to it and it seems to evoke this kind of old sense of what Guelph was. I mean, I think you can make the same argument for KW, for Hamilton, for Toronto, for a lot of these cities…And then just another thing, working with your hands and having that manual ability was really important for a lot of the Italians that left Italy and settled in Canada in the 50s and 60s. They did manual labour and the ones that – those that went on to be artists, you know, I think have sort of been reluctant to let go of that evidence of the hand in the art and just some craft quality, you know, just a technical accomplishment. I know for me, I do some abstract work, but I struggle more with it because it’s just, it feels more foreign to me and I’m always thinking it just looks like some kid threw paint at the canvas kind of thing. I know it’s not, because I do it and it’s much more difficult than that. But having something that’s kind of popular enough and semi-representational and looks like “ok, this person’s put some time into what they’re doing” you know, there’s a manual accomplishment, a technical ability there. And for me that comes from – maybe that’s – yeah, that comes from the Italian, the specific wave of Italian immigration that landed in Canada. I think it’s the same for a lot of immigrant groups.
N: So would you say that that’s kind of like, a value that you like to keep in your artwork? Keeping that Italian in the back of your mind?
I: I think so, it’s not that I emphasize it, I don’t put that in my artist statement, but it’s there in the back of my mind, for sure. I take pride in that kind of stuff. I go to art shows and people will ask me stuff and I don’t hesitate to say “yeah as I teenager I worked in factories”. I have an apprenticeship in plastering and I really like all the manual labour jobs and stuff. Even though I have an academic – like I’ve got a university degree and all the rest but that other stuff is equally important. I can always hear the voices in the back of my head of, you know, my parents and that generation of Italians saying “ahh those lousy teachers that never worked a day in their life” kind of thing and “they couldn’t screw in a lightbulb at home” kind of thing. We always kind of took pride in we’ll take care of that stuff ourselves. So some of it’s still there and I think it’s come out in the art. I can certainly see that appreciated in Italy with, even the art that’s done today, there’s a lot of people still doing marble sculptures and doing – the architecture is beautiful and even the fashion. People put a lot of attention and stuff into quality. Even the food! People don’t serve up any old thing or put on any old shabby t-shirt. There’s an attention to that detail that isn’t as strong in North America. There’s something cultural in that I think. If I look at images of these Italians that came over in my parents’ generation or their parents’ generation, they’re all dressed immaculately, they have suits on. They’re poor, they’ve just come from some farm, they’ve got a Stetson hat, you know, it’s odd. They’re not in potato sacks all dusty and what you’d expect necessarily.
N: Did your parents come over together or separately?
I: Oh no, my mom came over herself initially and finished off her last years of high school in Canada and my dad came over when he was in his mid 20s in the early 70s. And they settled in Guelph. I think most Italians in Guelph, in Kitchener, they came in from the late 50’s to early 70s. And they’re mostly from… that north – around Venice, the countryside of Venice or Calabria, the heel. Those two areas…When I lived in Italy, recently, it was in Florence. There, there’s like – no one even knows where Canada is.
I: No, there’s no connection to Canada at all. And there wasn’t a lot of emigrants that left for other parts of the world. It was a weirder experience for me being there.
N: You seem to be pretty connected to your Italian heritage and ancestry. Are there ways that you do that in your current life right now to stay connected or ways that you can help keep that heritage in your children, or something, from being far away from your parents right now?
I: I don’t know it’s tough.
N: Or is that like a goal that you still want to instill Spanish side with your wife and then the Italian side on your side.
I: Yeah we try – it’s um – I have a love/hate relationship with it all. Italy is a very different place than what I think Italian-Canadians remember of it, it’s definitely got – as nice as the art is and the food and all the rest, there’s a side to the country that’s just oppressive. Just look at the politics today. If you live there and you talk to people, they tell you a very different story than what this old generation of Italians in Guelph are going to talk about. And so I see both sides of that and I wouldn’t want to live there, for instance. It surprises people to hear me say that. When I think of, still how, it’s not a great place for women – I’ve got two girls, I don’t care for them to be going to school in Italy necessarily. It’s still a fairly patriarchal society, more so than Canada and the US. It’s politics right now are very right wing, you know fascism of the 30s, it’s not that but it’s not going away. There’s a lot of ugly, anti-immigrant stuff happening in Italy so, I don’t know. If anything I impart to my own kids it’s that balanced picture. Sure there’s all the beautiful art and the food and be proud of that but be critical as well of some of the stuff that a lot of Italians are too nostalgic about to pay attention to enough. I think there should be some attention given to that side of what’s happening, not just in Italy, in Europe too. It’s not all cafes in Europe, there’s some pretty ugly types in the continent. But, predominantly it’s through my family and you know my parents in particular. And then the language, making an effort to be practiced in the language. I read the newspapers a little bit and watch Italian films and that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t say it’s very strongly there on a daily basis, and same with the Spanish. And it’s hard to maintain a second language in North America.
N: It’s very English-centered.
I: It’s very English-centred and you have to really go out of your way to find opportunities to speak other languages or immerse yourself in other cultures – you can do it, but it takes an effort. It’s not like you go out on the street and you find francophones to speak with in Guelph, it’s very tough…But, yeah! I think it’s important to know where you come from, but not to be stuck in some kind of nostalgic vision of what that is either. And for me, my name’s weird enough that people – when I meet people they’re like “oh where does that name come from?” That doesn’t happen for my cousins! Like I’ve got a cousin named Mike and he never gets that question, right? That’s a bit of a difference there.
N: The privilege of a name that people get, just in North America, there’s definitely a lot of privilege in that. It’s unfortunate.
I: Yeah, well not just a name, but skin colour, accent, religion.
N: Yeah, accent always baffles me. I know a lot of British people and it’s just funny when they don’t get called out for their accent, but you know someone from India does.
I: I – for me, I had that moment – I grew up speaking the accent of English that we’re speaking, but living in England, boy did I ever feel that there. And I was teaching in England, so I was teaching kids and they were jeering and laughing at specific ways of saying – even in the States I get it. I’ve learned them by now, but there’s very Canadian ways of saying things that they don’t say and they just give you away right away. Right away, like within a couple minutes someone will go “oh you’re a Canadian”. I can’t tell, I don’t know how you tell! What did I say here exactly, it’s like some inflexion of the accent. Yeah, it’s an uncomfortable feeling. I’m a lot more sympathetic of it now. Well and then my parents both have accents, so I was used to it as a kid just these parents that had these weird accents and everybody noticed *laughs*. It hasn’t felt totally unnatural to me, but I don’t know, it is annoying. Especially when you get tons of people in one day it’s just like “okay enough already” *laughs*.
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“There’s something magical about painting. I remember my relatives, my aunt and uncle had a cheesy painting they bought on one of their trips to Italy and brought back with them. A scene of Venice with some clown holding balloons or something, but done in such an odd way and they had it right in the doorway of their house. Every time we went to their house for dinner and we were leaving, everyone was kind of gathered around putting their shoes on and jackets on and the painting just happened to be right there at eye level so it always generated some discussion. My uncle loved it, my cousin hated it, my dad didn’t like it so it just got this freakish conversation about art going. And I don’t know but that kind of stuck with me. Why did the artist paint the balloons in quite that way, there was one balloon that was just black and looked like a hole in the painting. We just talked about whether that was deliberate or not, was that just bad painting, was that what the artist intended to do? That just stuck with me… I guess this stuff just comes unexpectedly sometimes.”
– Ivano Stocco
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Ecco ed un link alla webpage: http://www.ivanostocco.com/
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Here is a link to the website: http://www.ivanostocco.com/