The story of Vernon’s aristocratic Italian family has been heard all around town. But it has also received some international attention as of late.
British artist Rebecca Key is in Vernon to conduct an art installation based on the enigmatic and mysterious Caetani family.
She is staying at the Caetani house on Pleasant Valley Road, now run as a cultural centre with artist studios and residences, which was once the home to the Prince of Teano and Duke of Sermoneta, Leone Caetani.
He moved to Vernon with his mistress Ofelia Fabiani and their artistically inclined daughter, Sveva, from their native Italy in 1921.
Key is here to conduct research at both the Caetani house and at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, which has both materials and objects once belonging to the Caetanis. Key’s area of concentration is the time period following the death of Leone in 1934 to the death of Ofelia in 1960.
“As many local residents are aware, this was the period of time that the young Sveva was kept a virtual prisoner in her own home for approximately 25 years, not allowed out of her house for the first three years, and restricted to the grounds and short excursions into town for the remainder,” said Caetani Cultural Centre executive director Susan Brandoli. “Sveva was encouraged to read, but vehemently denied the freedom to write, draw or paint.
“Following her mother’s death, she was to emerge into the community, eventually able to obtain her teaching certificate from the University of Victoria, and returned to the North Okanagan to become a respected teacher, mentor, artist and writer for many years before her own death in 1994.”
Key’s investigation focuses on this 25-year period of Sveva’s life, using archival objects and new visual metaphors to illustrate the relationship between mother and daughter, and the dynamic similitude of love and control, isolation and suffocation.
The installation will also include Key’s own photographs taken in response to her research on the Caetani family.
“I am pleased to be able to stay in the house where she (Sveva) and her mother (Ofelia) spent the many years following the death of her father,” said Key. “This will be a great piece of work to engage dialogue with all ranges of people, to talk about the life of such a unique and generous woman.”
Key, who has exhibited internationally and also worked as an art director in the film and television industry, uses objects to examine the relationship between artist and gallery space and also uses props to explore myths that surround the creative process within the institution and other specific sites.
“Once we’re familiar with a place, we almost always tune it out. Key jolts us awake by making the familiar strange. For a moment, at least, we’re aware of what surrounds us,” reads a review by The Washington Post about Key’s previous work:
Key is currently studying a practice-based PhD at the Art & Design Research Institute at Middlesex University, London, which is financially supported by the BBC Grace Wyndham Goldie Trust and The Snowdon Trust. Her residency in Vernon is funded by Arts Council England.
The public is invited to attend a reception and conversation with Key on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Vernon museum. She will give a short introduction on her work and will answer questions about the installation, her research and the Caetani family, along with Brandoli.
For more information, visit www.caetani.ca.