Studio Visits With Four Artists
by Sarah London
Ditacchio likes looking beyond-beyond windows, through tunnels, between
buildings, across bridges. Her eye discards the detail of surface, the
minutia of realism, and instead explores form, light gesture, and mood-the
imposing silhouette of a city high-rise against a cloud-scrubbed sky or
the commanding crosses of telephone poles stitching together a bruised
Cape Cod afternoon. Painting with oil on canvas or encaustic on wood,
Ditacchio transforms what she sees into haunting abstractions that express
intensity of mood, and a somber, revelatory vision.
She describes her work as "a collective memory" of the places
she has been. "I go into the painting and it's almost like I'm walking
around in this unknown place, and I wait for it to come to me, and I'll
remember, this reminds me of that bridge in Italy."Another reminds
her of driving in and out of New York City, and another of a train station
in Vermont. Specifics, though, are unimportant to Ditacchio, who feels
her canvases are more about "the moods I've been in when I've been
in those places."
Her moods, she notes, can easily be dictated by her progress in the studio-a
cramped cellar room down a narrow alley on Provincetown's busy Commercial
Street. Large and small canvases crowd the low-ceilinged space she shares
with her companion, painter Michael Landis. Here, among tubes of pigments,
brushes and pots for heating wax, she is working on several paintings
simultaneously. While painting is Ditacchio's passion, at age 24 she is
also an accomplished printmaker. Her monoprints, linoleum-block prints
and etchings, like her paintings, show abstracted figurative images, but
the medium results in a precision that contrasts sharply with the thickly
painted canvases. These small works on paper are elegant impressions of
houses and telephone poles. There mood is surprisingly serene.
Ditacchio remarks that much of her drawing has a delicate, sparse character.
She takes small pads with her wherever she travels, and sketches religiously.
The daughter of Provincetown painter Linda van de Visse, she remembers
going to life drawing classes as a young girl with her mother, and studying
the figure for many years afterwards. As early as high school, and later
in college, she painted in full color from life. "I was really bent
on making it look real," she says of her former work, until one day
she realized "there's really not a lot of soul in there." As
she stood with her easel in a train yard, she had a revelation: "I
realized what I was going for was the silhouette of the train against
the station." Shapes and light would inform her subsequent work.
What fascinated Ditacchio when she moved back to Cape Cod after college
was the "uniqueness of the light at the edge of morning or at the
edge of night. That in-between time." The stark forms of the piers
began to influence her. And while forms inspired her paintings, a quality
of mood infused them with something more complex, the result, she believes,
of "a lot of longing-searching and longing."