Graduate Experience, 2018

XINGZE LI

GRADUATE STUDENT — MFA PAINTING

I admire how much effort Diana has made for this program, and appreciate all the classmates and faculty with whom I had amazing times. Pratt in Venice provides such a precious opportunity for Fine Arts students like me.
 Xingze Li pictured here at his final critique at UIA.

Xingze Li pictured here at his final critique at UIA.

After leaving Venice and coming back to New York City after nearly 3 months, I still have clear images of the wonderful moments I experienced. They’re in my mind, swinging around and reminding me what an amazing and unusual experience I had this summer in Venice. In fact, in the first few weeks after this program was ended and I returned to New York City, I felt I had become a stranger again in this city that I already gotten used to and lived in for two years. I felt unexpectedly depressed by the subway, urban structures of reinforced concrete, and the sultry climate—comparing them constantly to the coolness, brightness, wide open skyline and comfortable breeze in Venice. I have to say, we were there at just the right time and season. So how can I describe this six-week experience in Venice in a few sentences here? It’s not likely possible.


In this 2018 summer, I took two studio classes: Painting with Michael Brennan, and Printmaking and Drawing with Andrea Lynn Santos. The Painting class took place in brightly lit rooms in a beautiful restored palazzo with a garden by the sea, which currently belongs to the International University of Art, an incredible spot by the sea. Just sitting there in the studios and looking outside through the windows, seeing how the natural light phenomenally changes in different time and different weather already had me breathtaken and inspired. I made many paintings about the color study of the light there and now at my studio in Brooklyn, I continue to deal with the perceptions of light effects. The printmaking studio we had was neat too. It’s a professional print studio for artists from all over the world. The class, taught by Andrea and the studio technician and print artist Roberta Feoli was my first graduate printmaking experience and was outstanding. I really enjoyed bringing the daily element of life there into my prints, such as my receipts from breakfast, the peeling wall, and sunlight and shadow on the wall. It was intense and very fruitful. The two history classes, Materials & Techniques of Venetian Art and Art History of Venice, by Diana Gisolfi, Ph.D. and Joseph Kopta, which I didn’t register for, were kindly open to all the students in this program who were welcomed to participate in the multiple field trips and on-location research opportunities afforded by the classes. There were many times we were totally overwhelmed by seeing the huge amount of work by those Venetian masters whom we had just heard of from our history textbooks years before—further enriched with the explanations and commentary from Diana and Joseph. Sometimes these experiences were enhanced by the participation of a local conservation expert, museum curator, or church technician. These events were vivid and stereoscopic, and not like any other visiting experience I have ever had.


Expect fulfilling studio times and site visits. Our lives after class were fresh and rich too! We had a bunch of time to immerse ourselves in the local culture. We lived in sweet apartments which were in different locations. All were convenient and close to nice restaurants and supermarkets. We had great times visiting each other's places and hanging out around the city. Sunlight was amazing and the Lido beach was the perfect place to relax. The Venice Biennale was there too! I also visited a lot of galleries and museums—had classic artwork in both traditional and contemporary areas. Visiting Rome, Florence, and other Italian cities during the weekends was convenient by train, as I had great weekend trips in Rome and Naples. The best feeling was, after a few weeks, Venice becoming a neighborhood-like place for me. Everywhere on the island is reliably reachable and within one-hour walking or boating distance, and I had my favorite local bar and restaurants to go to often. We spent the last few days with the most important Venetian festival, Redentore Festival, when the program was coming to an end. There was a feeling of living like as a local—though not true, it meant a lot to me.


I personally feel very lucky to have Diana as the director of this program. She speaks Italian, visits Venice more than once every year, and develops relationships with local people and organizations very well, from which we took a lot of advantage. Without her, we wouldn’t have had the chance to walk into the private back spaces of churches and museums or meet all the guest speakers who were elite professionals in their academic areas. Meanwhile, she cares about the feelings as well as the safety of students and really has a passion to introduce the Venice she is familiar with to us. Not to mention that we were able to ride the water bus whenever we wanted since we got vaporetto passes at the local student price and to visit all the important churches with our chorus passes, which saved a lot of money. We were able to have multiple trips to other towns and cities, to visit with local families, and enjoy the amazing authentic food there.


I admire how much effort Diana has made for this program, and appreciate all the classmates and faculty with whom I had amazing times. Pratt in Venice provides such a precious opportunity for the Fine Arts students like me and allowed me to be able to study and take studio art courses aboard. I’m very thankful and excited about the fact that next year is the 35th anniversary of Pratt in Venice. I look forward to the reunion with all the PIV friends at future Pratt in Venice Exhibitions.