Riva del Garda. such a beautiful bookshop with antique books where I would spend hours. the lake. the colours of the lake and the mountains. Selena’s Christmas display with the toys of the children born in the 1970s, like me. I had even forgotten that some of those toys existed. but as soon as I saw them I could remember them one by one. and remember holding them in my hands. the feel of their texture. their sound. childhood memories. where did she get all those toys? they have always been her toys. and her siblings’. But, growing up, Selena did not throw them away. she did not get rid of them. she treasured them. as she treasures a great many other things. and she collects more things in the flea markets.
then the purpose of my visit. Selena’s atelier. her collection of vintage photographs of children and her artworks for the exhibition that will take place at Mirabilia in Bologna at the end of January. and just out of curiosity. especially out of curiosity. she took me to an amazing big shed full of stuff of all kind. tables. chairs. chandeliers. clothes. drawers. all kind. and her atelier. two rooms in the middle of the universe. two tidy rooms which are nevertheless full of a kind of universe. although it is a universe only made of children.
“when you are a child, you feel like the day will never end. you wake up in the morning and tell yourself—today I’m going to live forever—and you feel you can do anything. there is no limit. and I try not to lose this ability. it’s not easy. but every morning when I wake up I try to recover that feeling of an endless possibility.”
Selena owns over seven hundred vintage photographs depicting children. collected one by one. they are photographs of all kind. photographs with hidden mothers. photographs of children with pets. photographs of boys in girl’s clothes. photographs of children with toys. photographs of children with their mother. or with their siblings. and even some post-mortem photographs. these photographs inspire her work. they are her models. end each of these children. both her children and the ones in the photographs. is housed in a frame Selena found out in the same place where she found the photographs. dolls. and all the other things she enjoys collecting.
Selena is lucky. she makes a living out of her art. she has chosen what to live on and how to live. she has chosen to be surrounded by her favourite things. “every day, as I enter my atelier I find a blank sheet in front of me. and every day I must give out something of me. I made this choice. I’ve been painting for many years. I invested a lot of time in this. and I can’t go back anymore. I don’t want to. I occasionally did some other jobs, but I felt like I was wasting my time. I could hear a voice inside me whispering—you’re wasting your time. you should do something else. I feel good only when I’m here in my atelier. it’s a form of meditation. a sort of therapy against the pain of living. I isolate myself. and nothing bad can happen to me when I’m here.”
At some point, Selena used the word shell. to me, it looks more like freedom. and courage, too. because you have to be brave to wake up every morning and face yourself. her children come close to me. they whisper words that I can’t hear well at first. I stop to listen better.
“my paintings are purchased by people of all ages. if they don’t know me, the first approach can be a little difficult. but they come back, after a while. they have to know me. they have to understand me. for example, a lady came and told me—Good Lord, how disturbing! Good Lord, how disturbing!—but then she came back and had to purchase one of my artworks. because it moved something inside her.”
and then what? “and then when I finish my artwork I feel like everything has fallen into place. everything is back to what it should be. I feel at peace with myself. until the next day. because it doesn’t last long. it just lasts that moment. the moment when I’ve finished. then it starts again.”
Exhibition of the private collection of posed photographs of children only and works by Selena Leardini during Bologna Art City 2019
From 31st January to 17th March 2019 Galleria Mirabilia, via de’ Carbonesi 3/e centre of Bologna
VERNISSAGE with the artist on Thursday 31st January at 6 pm.