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UN PAESE CI VUOLE… (IT TAKES A VILLAGE) Works by Lea Contestabile

Photography at Contestabile home: from the portraits of Guido Orante to the artistic interpretation of his daughter Lea
Curated by Manuela De Leonardis

State Archives – Villa Torlonia – Parco ARSSA, Avezzano (AQ)
XXIV edition  Marsicana’s week
August 2-8, 2021

Opening August 2, 6 pm


Castello Piccolomini and historic center streets, Ortucchio (AQ)
August 8-22 2021
Opening  August 8, 6 pm

“It takes a village, if only for the sake of leaving. A country means not being alone, knowing that in the people, in the plants, in the earth there is something of yours, that even when you are not there it remains waiting for you”, Cesare Pavese, La luna e i falò (1950)

The exhibition Un paese ci vuole. (Ii takes a village) Works by Lea Contestabile – Photography at home Contestabile: from the portraits of Guido Orante to the artistic interpretation of his daughter Lea, by Manuela De Leonardis, with the patronage and collaboration of the Municipality of Ortucchio, CARISPAQ Foundation, Regional Council of Abruzzo, Municipality of L’Aquila, Province of L’Aquila, State Archives of L’Aquila – section of Avezzano, Deputation of Homeland History L’Aquila, Pro Loco of Ortucchio, Pro Loco of Avezzano, Museum of the People of Abruzzo in Pescara and Mubaq – L’Aquila Children’s Museum, was born with the intention of exploring the role of memory in the works that the artist created in dialogue with the photographs of her father Guido Orante (Ortucchio 1910-1995), a farmer-photographer, who took them during the 1940s-1950s to document moments of everyday life and special events such as holidays, communions and weddings of the community to which he belonged.

Conceived as a unitary project, the exhibition unfolds in various places in the Abruzzo region – Avezzano and Ortucchio – as evidence of Lea Contestabile’s strong bond with the theme of roots, childhood and return, also central to Cesare Pavese’s novel “The moon and the bonfires” (1950) from which the artist draws inspiration for the title of the exhibition.

In the rooms of Villa Torlonia in Avezzano, seat of the State Archives, the creative aspect linked to historical photography is emphasized, at the same time underlining the importance of the conservation and enhancement of the historical collection of Guido Orante Contestabile not only as a corpus of significant value historical-documentary but as a “living material”, primary source to draw on for artistic elaboration. In this close dialogue between one and the other, the installation Returning home (2020) is born, in which the instant and eternity reunite personal and collective stories. The house itself is always a symbol of welcome and belonging, a container of emotions and traditions that last from generation to generation.

In the town of Ortucchio, the exhibition is developed both outdoors with a selection of the hundreds of portraits of the inhabitants made by Guido Orante Contestabile which, printed in large format on poster paper and posted in the streets of the historic center, trace a new mapping that restores vitality to the urban fabric, and indoors inside the majestic Piccolomini Castle.  Among the new works located in the rooms of the Renaissance monument, from the keep tower to the stables: It takes a village (2021) and Do not forget me (2021), focused on the value of family, affection and tradition together with iconic works such as My father fixed an emotion, I would like to give you back a smile (2017-2021), The place, the map and the families (2018) and The country of crossed destinies (2017-2021) previously exhibited in other solo exhibitions including Elements of amorous cosmography at the House of Memory and History in Rome (2019) and at the Italian Cultural Institute in Zagreb (2020), accompanied by the publication of the volume with texts by Manuela De Leonardis, Guendalina Di Sabatino and Filippo Panzavolta (Textus Edizioni, 2019).

Often in Lea Contestabile’s work the references are autobiographical, especially when the embroidery threads become stitches to heal a wound, a vital sign of overcoming a physical and psychological obstacle.


As Louise Bourgeois writes in the pages of her diary (Lycée Hoche, Versailles, February 5, 1951), “To work and produce seriously there must be integration of work into life, or integration of life into work.” Instead, Maria Lai in Sguardo Opera Pensiero (2004) states that “The work of art is a mutual game between vision and thought: each animates and illuminates the other in a single experience”.   Mentioning two great artists of the twentieth century such as Louise Bourgeois and Maria Lai, both illuminating for Contestabile, is a duty even more than from a poetic, content and stylistic point of view for the tenacity with which these extraordinary women have faced, each with their own language, difficulty in accessing an artistic scenario that at the time was exclusively male prerogative.

Also for Lea Contestabile the affirmation of emancipation is implicit in the elaboration of the creative process, as well as the desire to put order, keep threats at bay that come from both inside and outside, elaborate the frailties, get involved: art as an act of conscious action. Subsequent stages of the exhibition will be, during 2021/2022, the headquarters of the Abruzzo Regional Council in L’Aquila and the Museum of the People of Abruzzo in Pescara. The conclusion of the project involves the donation of the Historic Fund of Guido Orante Contestabile to the Italian State and the publication of a catalog that recalls the memory of the entire artistic project. (Manuela De Leonardis)

Lea Contestabile was born in Ortucchio (AQ) in 1949, she  lives and works in L’Aquila. After the Academy she worked at the National Chalcography in Rome, directed by Carlo Bertelli, thanks to a scholarship from the Academy of San Luca. She was a lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in L’Aquila and is the founder and director of MUBAQ – L’Aquila Children’s Museum.

Recent exhibitions include: 2021 – The Actualizing Tendencies – The Actualizing Tendencies, Giardino Virginia Ryan, Trevi; Corpo.doc – performance and visual arts, Museo delle Arti Castello di Nocciano; 2020 – REBELS, SCD Studio, Perugia; And… we managed to see the stars again, Santa Maria delle Croci Hospital, Ravenna; Of the resilience of survival – Art at the time of Covid19, MACC Cisternino Contemporary Art Museum; Contest #Do maniInArte, Gallery of Modern Art in Rome;Elements of amorous cosmography, Italian Cultural Institute, Zagreb; The breath of time. Lea Contestabile and Carola Masini, Palazzo Ruspoli, Cerveteri, One Gallery, L’Aquila; Todi Open Doors – Beverly Pepper Project Festival, Todi; The blood of women. Traces of red on the white cloth, Auditorium Vallisa, Bari; 2019 – The Garden of Memory – The corner of the little stars, MuBAQ-Children’s Art Village, Fossa (AQ); Elements of amorous cosmography, House of Memory and History, Rome.

Barbara Pavan

English version Sono nata a Monza nel 1969 ma cresciuta in provincia di Biella, terra di filati e tessuti. Mi sono occupata lungamente di arte contemporanea, dopo aver trasformato una passione in una professione. Ho curato mostre, progetti espositivi, manifestazioni culturali, cataloghi e blog tematici, collaborando con associazioni, gallerie, istituzioni pubbliche e private. Da qualche anno la mia attenzione è rivolta prevalentemente verso l’arte tessile e la fiber art, linguaggi contemporanei che assecondano un antico e mai sopito interesse per i tappeti ed i tessuti antichi. Su ARTEMORBIDA voglio raccontare la fiber art italiana, con interviste alle artiste ed agli artisti e recensioni degli eventi e delle mostre legate all’arte tessile sul territorio nazionale.