Roberta and Alessandro

by Michele Orvieti

Photo © Lina Vergara Huilcamán

Photo © Lina Vergara Huilcamán

Roberta Di Flaviano and Alessandro Catena first visited Mirabilia in January 2018. We immediately noticed that their eyes were shining with a special light: here follows their story, intertwined with ours.
Roberta – I was born in Castelnuovo, Abruzzo. I moved to Bologna to attend university more than 10 years ago. After graduating, I looked for a job in the field of education and early childhood, and I’m currently working in a nursery school at the Villaggio del Fanciullo, in Bologna.
My passion for picture books and graphic novels bloomed about 5 years ago, thanks to my work with children.
I often browse illustrated books to find some material for my workshops. But I also do it because I love them: my home overflows with books, I love watching, handling and purchasing them!
Around a year ago, I read a newspaper article announcing the birth of Mirabilia (and this name intrigued me!). So I was looking forward to the opening.
I first entered the bookshop in January, with a friend of mine, and it was totally awesome: Mirabilia is a nurturing place in every way. I love its polyvalent nature: it hosts exhibitions and events, allowing you to meet authors in person, which I found extremely exciting. Also, it was a surprise to me to find out that this bookshop belonged to #logosedizioni, one of my favourite publishing houses!
Alessandro – I come from Aprilia, near Latina. I am Roberta’s partner.
I am into comic books since I was a child; and I went from reading comics to drawing almost for fun. It was just a game at the beginning and, over the years, it became a proper job. Now I am a portraitist and a collector of illustrated books.
It was Roberta who introduced me to Mirabilia. One day she sent me a photo of one of your ‘wunder’ books, full of skulls and skeletons… and my first thought was “this place is likely to become my second home!”.
R – For my workshops with children, I always choose books that I find impressive. Most of them are illustrated books, with or without words.
First of all, I try to play with the outside of books: the cover, colours, title and size. Then I read the whole story, and when I’ve finished, we examine the book, I answer to the children’s questions, we read again some passages, and I ask them what emotions they have felt while watching the pictures. The best thing is to work with a group of 7-8 children (preferably not toddlers) and ask them to tell the story after browsing the book together.
Among the books I found at Mirabilia, I had a great time working with Seguimi! by Roger Olmos: children love crazy stories!
A – I’m always seeking inspiration for my portraits, and I feel especially attracted by odd, unconventional images: for example, I found a rare photo of Robert De Niro in a book of yours that I received as a gift, Steve Schapiro. Taxi Driver by Taschen, and decided to reproduce it. After choosing the photo, I usually work in black and white, sometimes adding colours to highlight a single detail to the face to catch attention.
I promote my work on social networks, that allow me to easily find customers in Italy and abroad.
Unfortunately, my town isn’t really into art: social media help me reaching an audience beyond my small provincial town.
Aprilia is not a cultural hub: it doesn’t offer many chances to young artists like me. For example, we haven’t any bookshops/galleries such as Mirabilia; but luckily there is a comic book store, which was an essential landmark for me, having been a geek collector for most of my life!
Furthermore, this town isn’t tattoo-friendly at all: in some shops they frown at costumers with lots of showy tattoos like me!
Despite all this, I have never considered moving to a big city, such as Rome (where I lived for a while): it’s too big, too chaotic… I couldn’t give up the peacefulness of a town like Aprilia!
I have been drawing all my lifetime and I think I have developed a personal, recognisable style, which is kind of semi-realistic. Moreover, I spent 6-7 years working in a tattoo parlour, where I also displayed my first works (back then, only comics), and many customers got impressed and bought them.
R – I am really bewitched by what stands beyond images, and it was Alessandro who made me discover this ‘beyond’. I’m talking of a sort of pleasure in browsing dreamlike books that allow me to reflect upon myself: it’s just like a therapy! Indeed, in my library I have some books in particular that I use as drugs to ‘cure’ certain psychological conditions: it’s all about touching them, looking at the cover, opening and browsing them, lingering on some details. I have found many of these therapeutic books at Mirabilia!
A – I felt immediately attracted by the most upsetting books in Mirabilia, because I feel a deep fascination for skulls, skeletons, monsters, and more scary stuff... probably because I’ve always been a fanatic of horror movies!
‘Wunder’ places
Alessandro – Where I come from, there is an old factory for beverage supply. It is abandoned now, but when I was a child my dad, who was a lorry driver, used to bring me there with his lorry. This place is engraved in my memory: passing by this factory makes me travel back in time, and it is very striking to see it abandoned.
Roberta – My ‘wunder’ place is in Roseto degli Abruzzi, where I attended high school. We had to move to a convent where we would spend a whole school-year: the school occupied only a part of it and the rest couldn’t be visited. The whole place was mysterious and secret to me: from time to time we were able to distinguish the silhouettes of the nuns, but they were so evanescent they almost looked unreal… maybe they weren’t there at all!

MIRABILIA via de' Carbonesi 3/e Bologna centro
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