Here is the third installment of the new interview series, “Venice, My Muse.” Today we’ll hear from JoAnn Locktov, editor of the Dream of Venice series. JoAnn established Bella Figura Publications in 2014, as an imprint dedicated to publishing books on contemporary Venice. Prior to publishing, JoAnn wrote two books on contemporary mosaics. Her work as an international publicist in design and architecture has brought her to Italy annually for last decade. I also want to thank JoAnn for helping me develop this interview idea.
How has Venice seduced you?
She has taught me to understand the great beauty of audacity.
What do you never fail to do in Venice?
Walk or take a boat?
Which church or campo best epitomizes you? Please explain.
The deconsecrated Church of San Lorenzo. It is massive and decrepit, with 9th century mosaics hidden under mounds of sand, and boxes of bones that may or may not belong to Marco Polo. It occupies a liminal space, too large to resuscitate, too noble to demolish. I feel connected to this building because it exists in Venice without a purpose, except to hold the legacy of memory.
Which is your favorite Venetian festival and why?
Festa della Madonna della Salute, which is celebrated on November 21. There is a votive bridge erected across the Grand Canal, and we form a procession walking slowly towards Madonna della Salute, the baroque masterpiece designed by Longhena and consecrated 1687. The Basilica was built as a promise, as Venetians prayed to the Madonna to deliver them from a plague which had decimated over 30% of the population. The prayers worked, the basilica was built. It is an elegant Venetian festival, both sacred and profane, reflected in the illumination of a thousand tapers. It even has its own delicious mutton stew called castradina. For me, it is a significant experience of remembrance and gratitude. November is the only month I come to Venice, and Festa della Salute is one of the reasons why.
Spritz or Bellini?
Aperol spritz, sempre.
What do you do when you’re alone in Venice?
Listen to the silence.
What do you always tell friends to do when they visit the city?
To understand the spectacle of Venice, the city needs to be observed from a distance. I always recommend to friends that they hop over to the island of San Giorgio, and ride up the campanile at Palladio’s 16th century San Giorgio Maggiore. It is this view that gives Venice beguiling unity between water and stone.
If you could have dinner with any Venetian, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Casanova, of course. That’s the only way I would be able to answer Question #10.
What would dinner be?
A man doesn’t write of oysters without obliging him, “‘I placed the shell on the edge of her lips and after a good deal of laughing, she sucked in the oyster, which she held between her lips. I instantly recovered it by placing my lips on hers.” To serve him anything else would be inconsiderate.
Casanova: genius or cad?
I’ll let you know after dinner.
What would you do with $30,000 U.S. to spend in Venice?
I would donate the funds to help restore St. Mark’s Chapel in the courtyard of the patronage of Saint Francis of the Vigna. Currently deconsecrated, the chapel has been reduced to a warehouse for storing garden tools. According to legend this is where Mark found shelter the night he was shipwrecked in the Lagoon. It was here the Angel assured him “Pax tibi, Marce Evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum.” Peace to you Mark, my Evangelist. Here your body will rest.
Monies are being raised to restore the chapel to its original dignity.
Salviamo la Cappella di San Marco a San Francesco della Vigna:
If money were no object, which palazzo would you buy?
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, built in 1748, designed by Lorenzo Boschetti.
Never finished, the palazzo is only one story, which is perfect because I really don’t need a lot of space. It would be quite an adventure to live with the spirits of the former occupants: Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse, & Peggy Guggenheim. This book inspired me: The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice by Judith Mackrell.
Would you rather be a courtesan or a noblewoman? Make your case.
A courtesan, absolutely. The courtesans in Venice were educated, the better to influence their customers and earn their patronage. Courtesans became equal participants in intellectual salons, discussing literature, poetry and politics. They also, like Veronica Franco, penned and published their own verses. Being a courtesan was one of the only ways a woman could remain independent and support herself. And besides, their zoccoli (shoes) were not only practical, but also gorgeous.
You can find out more about JoAnn’s creative pursuits on her social media and in her books:
Web site: http://bellafigurapublications.com/
Her books include:
Dream of Venice, Dream of Venice Architecture, and Dream of Venice in Black & White, available September 2018.
And a special bonus! To promote more engagement with my blog, we’re offering a raffle! If you “like” this post and also leave a comment, I’ll enter your name into a drawing. JoAnn will mail the winner a copy of her latest book Dream of Venice Architecture. You can post your comment and “like” here on WordPress, on my Facebook page (Kathleen Ann Gonzalez), on my LinkedIn page, or on my Goodreads author page, where this blog also appears. Deadline: October 31, 2017, midnight Pacific time. (Don’t let Halloween slow you down!)