“Garden” from Pia De Girolamo

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The COVID-19 pandemic forced many to find creative new approaches to their daily lives from suddenly turning dining tables into schoolrooms, to Zoom meetings in a button-down shirt and pajama pants, to family gatherings socially distanced across parking lots (BYO chair and beverages!). For Pia De Girolamo, a local artist, that reflection is visible in her new show Garden, which opens April 6th. De Girolamo’s art comes with a unique perspective that, while it would have been unimaginable a few years ago, may bring a sense of familiarity and comfort now.

"Orchids" by De Girolamo

Early on in lockdown, De Girolamo’s studio became a refuge from the intensity outside. She was finishing a series of paintings inspired by a 2019 trip to the Arctic when she noticed an intriguing new series of photographs on her Instagram feed (@artdoc07). “I began seeing Laurel’s photos on Instagram and asked if I could use them as inspiration,” De Girolamo says. Laurel Adrian Termini had been De Girolamo’s roommate at Barnard College in New York decades earlier, but they lost touch, and Termini moved to the West Coast. They reconnected, as many do, via social media, eventually following each other on Instagram. Beyond the usual pictures that are easily liked and scrolled past, the images from Huntington Gardens, a botanical garden near Termini where she often walked, caught De Girolamo’s attention.

Orchid Photograph by Laurel Termini

“I could see that she was not merely capturing pretty pictures but focusing on forms, line, shadow, and mystery and producing some compelling work,” De Girolamo remembers. Termini began taking the pictures as a way to distract from the stress of working in a structured health care setting through the pandemic. Termini notes, “The extra level of anxiety demands an outlet to regain composure and (literally) breathing space. Weekly Sunday access to the Huntington Gardens has been a necessary distraction.”

While it started as an idle hobby, the images of cacti, flowers, and vines quickly became more. “Social media has become a welcome avenue to maintain contact with friends and family, and Pia’s interest in my flower gallery really sparked a new energy and incentive to take and display the photos,” Termini says. She began to edit, refine, and enhance the images in her spare moments, and posted them to her Instagram @laurelnevarte.

De Girolamo started sharing her paintings based on the images back with Termini, and a partnership arose across the continent. Termini began seeking out “painterly” subjects on her walks, “taking care to frame the images with Pia’s collaboration in mind, focusing on vivid forms and colors. Pia’s unique abstract rendering of the floral imagery was exciting to witness as she would post and message me to reveal works in progress.”

The interpretations of the images are as interesting as the artwork itself. De Girolamo notes specifically “a wonderful photo of cycads called Encephalartos, with spiky blue-green leaves punctuated by flaming orange aloe flowers. The painting it inspired—In the Jungle—is the biggest piece in the show. I was moved to put a hiding leopard in it because I kept thinking of Henri Rousseau’s work!” Termini, in turn, loves a painting of orchids in which De Girolamo used a completely different color palette while keeping the vivid beauty of the original photograph.

It is interesting that this series was a form of meditation via art by both the photographer and the painter. “Making art has always been a source of wellbeing for me,” De Girolamo says. “I hope that the viewer will experience the same quiet joy or peace or excitement depending on which painting they are viewing that I did when I created them.” Termini has a similarly uplifting view of their artistic partnership: “Pia’s exhibit is a testament to the life-affirming power of nature and to the positive energy generated with a creative collaboration shared on social media and borne from the trauma of Covid isolation.”

Garden is part of the Cerulean Arts Collective Members’ Exhibitions, open from April 6th through May 1st at the Cerulean Arts Gallery. An in-person opening reception will be held Saturday, April 9th from 2 to 5 pm (masks required). A Virtual Artist Tour and Talk will be held on Wednesday, April 20th, at 6 pm via Zoom, prior registration required. The exhibit can be seen at the Cerulean Arts Gallery, 1355 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. For more information, check https://ceruleanarts.com/ and on Instagram @cerulean.arts.

About Victoria Rose

Victoria Rose (she/her) is an editor, writer, avid reader, self-described geek, and fan of all things creative. Her passion for words has led to her current career as a freelance editor, and she is the owner of Flickering Words, an editing service. When not wielding a red pen (or cursor), she loves reading books of all genres, playing video, board, and word games, baking ridiculous creations to show off on the internet, or enjoying the gorgeous outdoors. She is a board member of the West Chester Film Festival and part of the Thirsty Monsters, a team of streamers from around the world who fundraise for various charities supporting LGBTQIA+ and accessibility rights. She can be found online @WordsFlickering or the Brandywine Art Guide @BrandywineArtGuide.

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