Anna Galtarossa, Artist
Anna Galtarossa is an artist from Verona, Italy. She specialises in sculpture and large scale installations, and works between New York and Verona. I first met Anna a year ago whilst travelling around Russian Far East.
Do you remember the first time you travelled?
I cannot recall the first time I travelled… When I was still a baby, I was taken to Venezuela. My father wanted to build railways around the country, and at some point they were trying to make a decision whether to move there or not. First time I actually remember? As I child, I used to go to Austria every Christmas; our grandfather gave my parents a flat in Kitzbühel as a wedding present. At that time, there was no European Union, and our mother would often forget our passports at home. Usually, she could not be bothered to go all the way back home, so she would hide us beneath the coats in the car and smuggle us in. Spending our Christmases in Austria was very special… Well, apart from throwing up at every turn of the car for four hours non-stop, making my family travel with windows open in the dead cold of winter. And I could not understand a single word of German; somehow it was a difficult language for me to grasp.
How many countries have you visited?
I tried to count how many countries I have visited, but with no success. It might be more than fifty; I have been to four continents, apart from Antarctica… I have this really old map, from the early 90s, that still has the USSR on it. As a kid, I started to put flags on all the places that I went to. I try to keep that up sometimes. Counting countries makes me notice how many countries I have NOT visited, so it seems that I have not seen anything! I would love to explore much more of Africa and Australia.
To others it might seem that I am always travelling, but I have done a lot of repeat travelling, mainly for work. Last summer, after the trip to the Russian Far East, I started my two-year sabbatical; actually, I did not realize it at that time, but after that voyage, I had the overwhelming desire to explore the world. Travelling for work meant always going to the same places, over and over again, and I was getting very tired. I spent a lot of time travelling between New York and Verona; I kept returning to Mexico to pick materials or for other work related issues.
How does travelling inspire your work?
Travelling inspires my work in many ways; our world is so rich and varied! Sometimes I simply find materials that I can use, but the majority of time I come across images, ideas and cultural dynamics, that are very different from the ones that I already know. Sometimes I am shown alternate ways an artwork can be made, approached, or thought about; sometimes I see other functions for art and other places of art in society.
Visiting Papua New Guinea in March was such an intense experience for me. I saw so many parallels between my art and local art: the rituals, the masks, the decorations the villagers would adorn their bodies and houses with. I could see myself doing exactly the same thing; it made me wonder if I perhaps belonged to that society, rather than the society that I already know. The closest thing that I saw to my work was the snake dance in a small village on Sepik River. I have been seriously thinking about going back and collaborating on an artwork with a village in Papua New Guinea; perhaps I could put together a festival, or make sculptures of the tradition that I would bring to them. If the villagers were interested in playing with me, that would be fantastic. And I would absolutely love to work with kids.
How much do you travel nowadays?
I cannot remember the number of flights I have taken this year… I need to sit down and count. At the moment, I try to travel almost non-stop, making the most of my time. My first big trip this year was in March, Circumnavigation of New Guinea, which included Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. I went to Singapore on the way there and back, and spent a week diving in Bunaken National Park (Indonesia). Afterwards I went to British Colombia, Alberta, then New York, then straight to Iceland. Next on my itinerary is exploring Galapagos Islands, and hopefully Tibet later in the summer.
The most unusual and beautiful places
I suppose ‘unusual’ is a matter of perspective. I think you can judge an unusual/interesting factor of the place that you are going to visit by the number of people who ask you, ‘Where is it?’, followed by ‘Why the hell are you going there for?!’
The most recent ‘unusual’ place was Jan Mayen in the Norwegian Sea, a small island, now a military base, which I visited whilst sailing from Iceland to Svalbard. Jan Mayen is very remote and rarely visited, so even for a seasoned traveller that is quite an unusual place; the island receives no more than 300 visitors a year… Your passport is even stamped with a special Jan Mayen stamp as a free souvenir.
The place that really stands out from my recent travels is Atlasova Island, a small, uninhabited island and a volcano, part of Kuril Islands. Actually it was just one of the many unusual places that we came across on that trip [Russian Far East]. The whole island was outstandingly beautiful. It was such a gorgeous day when we visited; I remember the towering big volcano, the black sand and all these rocks… It was so isolated and quiet. I remember standing very still, watching an Arctic fox moving through the grass, eagles soaring in the bright blue sky, and sea otters by the beach. When I went back home, I picked up this book about the most remote islands in the world, and this island was in that book. I instantly thought, ‘Wow’; it was certainly a reason for Atlasova Island to stand out!
What do you always take when travel?
I try to leave home as light as I can, because I inevitably fill up my bag on the way. I often end up buying an extra bag. And it is not always silly souvenirs; I collect everyday objects, rocks, plants… Whenever I am packing for the trip, I try to narrow everything down to the essentials, and add a few extra things, because I do not like being just practical. I always bring some yarn that I can work with and my work notes. Sometimes I do not write or even read my notes, but I have to have them with me, because if I need them, they have to be ready.
What is the craziest thing you have done on your travels?
Unfortunately, I tend to forget these things, because I am such an intrepid traveller! When I was in British Colombia, about a month ago, I had a fun little adventure. I jumped over a fence to see a lighthouse that was closed to the public, because perhaps it was not safe enough for the general public. I am not sure how seriously they take these things in Canada, but in the US they would probably arrest you. I jumped over the fence, and landed into a blackberry bush full of thorns. I tried an alternate route to get out. I found a part of the fence that had been pushed down by a fallen tree. But on the other side of the fence, there was a very thick forest, so I had to crawl on the ground for a while in order to get out of there. The lighthouse itself was very old and beautiful, located on high cliff, so it was worth the risk of getting in trouble.
Would you travel to Mars?
I do not think that I would go to Mars; definitely not, if it was a one-way ticket! Travelling has made me realize just how much I love the Earth. Travelling allows you to discover the world beyond what you see on television or on the Internet. On a trip like this [Across the Arctic Circle: Iceland and Svalbard] you see the raw, intense beauty of our world; here, you ignore all the ugly aspects and fall in love with our planet all over again!