The Joy & Wonder of Rhapsody


The following is an introductory interview with curator Bianca Friundi written on the occasion of the three solo exhibits entitled "Rhapsody" with a review of the work of Serena Bocchino.

Can you tell me something about the Museo Italo Americano and its history for our readers?

The Museo Italo Americano was born in August of 1978, in a space above Malvina's Coffee House on Union Street in North Beach. Its parent organization was the "Archeoclub d'Italia in America," established in 1976. The founder and first executive director of the Museo was Giuliana Nardelli Haight,a native of Trento, Italy. Its present location, in a National Landmark Building in Fort Mason Center, became the home of the Museo in 1985. The space was designed by interior architect Teresa Pomodoro, andit includes galleries, a library, and a gift shop.

The mission of the Museo Italo Americano is twofold -- to research, collect, and display works of Italian and Italian-American artists, and to promote educational programs for the appreciation of Italian art, culture, language, thereby preserving the heritage of Italian-Americans for future generations.

How did you come to organize this exhibition of three painters? How long have you known about the artists' work?

I have known the three artists and their respective work for several years. Serena and Kara submitted an art proposal a few years prior to the pandemic, and they were both enthusiastically selected by our Art Committee. Nola is a long-time supporter of the Museo and has previously exhibited her work at the Museo. The choice of having her exhibit with Serena and Kara was a natural one. The three artists tell three different, complimentary stories. They use different media expressing different messages and experiences; nonetheless, they fit together perfectly.

What do you hope that people will experience with the work in the exhibition?

I would like our visitors to experience the joy and wonder of "Rhapsody," which is a celebration of three talented, Italian American women and their artistry, ingenuity, and creativity.

You titled the show "Rhapsody" which has discursive and emotional connotations. Can you tell me more about how you see these three artists on the present course of their careers and their journeys to a larger audience at the museum?

We chose the title "Rhapsody" due to the free, expressive, and ecstatic nature of the three artists' works.

The products of their creativity encompass powerful ingredients: music, improvisation, social and environmental awareness, love of nature, dance, and tapping into one's ancestral roots. The works that are exhibited exist in the present, but they will live on as a legacy and a gift to future generations of artists and appreciators of art.


Serena Bocchino has a Master of Arts Degree from NYU and has received a Pollack Krasner Foundation Award, PS1/MOMA Studio Residency the Basil Alkazzi Award USA, and The New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in both painting and drawing. In addition to the exhibition Ms. Bocchino collaborated with curator Friundi on the bilingual children's book , COSA SONA Storia di un Dipinto Astratto (Who Am I? The Story of an Abstract Painting).

Serena Boccchino comes from a family of painters and her work is a celebration of life and the positive emotions of being alive on the planet. Bochino presents 20 years of work and also includes the drawing and collage work of her mother, Lucia Confalone Bocchino and her grandmother, Maria DeFazio Confalone's fine crochet work. Their artistic activity fueled Bocchino's ambitions and by placing their works alongside her own, one can see how their Italian heritage was passed onto Serena. There is a truth to the detail, line  and visual language of the three generations. For each artist, it is a distinctive language of one's time. Bocchino states that her family of artists -- her mother and grandmother, taught her that to be an artist with their words:

"you must take the time to think with your ears, to look with your heart, to listen with your eyes, and to feel with every part of your being the preciousness of life"

Abstract art all about accident trying to find a vision of what we might call reality.  If all art is a reflection of environment and time, Serena Bocchino's brushwork can be compared to a movement in music and dance.


Serena Bocchino found that pouring the paint was the key to making the paint work and do a wide range of things for her. It unlocked for her a limitless abstraction and made each painting it's own environment. Like the masterful Kandinsky, Bocchino's use of color connects dynamic movement while utilizing a full range of color. She walks a tightrope with each painting setting up a joyous drama in a full range of colors and movement.

Rhythm Blues (from the Mirror Series), Enamel paint with applied mirrors on acrylic sheet, 2017

For Serena Bocchino, whose painting is a kin to the glamorous abstraction of Jackson Pollock's aggressive drips and layers across the picture surface gives the viewer a literal abyss to dive into. Bocchino's floats paint veils of color atop which is layered circular whirls of paint brushwork that bring the viewer closer to her depth of feeling and discursive association. For her, the act of abstract painting represent her intimate experiences.

Also included in this exhibition are the two wonderful artists -- the environmental painter Kara Maria and the sculptor Nola Pardi Proll.

The exhibition has been extended until September 11. The museum is located at Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd Building C, San Francisco, Ca 94123   (415)673-2200

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