The boy and his sister held up the painting of the Ghetto Novo so their parents could take a picture of it. They were contemplating the nearly finished painting that showed the Ghetto at early nighttime, the sky an inky blue, the buildings like black shadows, but the ground floor shops illuminated and flecked with the red and green and orange of handbags, glass, books, and other wares for sale. Spots of color caught in the pools of water on the campo’s stones.
This is a slice of life in Tony Green’s gallery, Imaogars, in Venice’s Ghetto.
Tony has been living in Venice for decades, sometimes splitting his time with New Orleans, his other home. He captures both cities in his paintings—the music, the people, the buildings and canals and street life. While I visited with him this summer (the day before his birthday, in fact), he even pulled out a binder he keeps to show his New Orleans mural work to a couple from Pennsylvania who asked him if he knew the musicians at Preservation Hall. You see, Tony is also a musician, a guitarist in the style of Django Reinhardt, the prodigy who was missing two of his fretwork fingers. “For anyone who comes in and hasn’t heard of Django, I keep this around,” he explained, showing me the paint-splattered copy of a book on the musician’s life and music. “Recognize that guy?” he asked the Pennsylvanians as he pointed to a photo of himself in the book.
In fact it was Tony’s music that introduced him to me years ago. Being a Django fan, when I saw the photocopied flyer on a wall in Venice, I made sure to attend the free concert. Tony and I hit it off and have even met up in New Orleans.
In the new book First Spritz Is Free: Confessions of Venice Addicts, Tony tells what brought him to Venice and shares a few of his funniest anecdotes of life there. Here’s an excerpt:
“Somehow living in a city with no cars, no crime, and no potholes encouraged my work habits that enabled me to reach higher artistic goals. And I’m still reaching.
I can remember one summer day walking through the sestiereof Dorsoduro when I abruptly stopped in front of this antique store to behold one of my paintings sitting there in the shop window for sale! So I entered and inquired to the owner about who was the author of this familiar self-creation. The shopkeeper proceeded to explain to me that the painting was the product of a long DECEASED American artist!
Upon hearing this dreadful news, I immediately whipped out my Louisiana driver’s license, plunked it on top of the canvas, and invited this misinformed hustler to compare the two signatures.
Hey baby, you can’t bamboozle a dude who was born in Naples, conceived in Venice (Hotel Regina), and raised in New Orleans!”
The ebook is free and can be downloaded here. Tony is but one of 35 contributors, all sharing their love for Venice.
I wonder who will buy that painting of the Ghetto at night?