Italian artist Paola Pivi on why she keeps it casual with potluck dinners and ‘never decorate’ for holiday parties

Italian artist Paola Pivi on why she keeps it casual with potluck dinners and ‘never decorate’ for holiday parties

Few artists conjure up as much joy as Paola Pivi, the Italian multimedia artist best known for his hyper-realistic polar bears, each covered in neon feathers and inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s readymades.

Pivi was born in Milan and studied at the Milan Academy of Arts and has lived in several countries, including India and the United States. She now works and lives in Alaska and pursues a practice that includes photography, sculpture and performance.

The award-winning artist sat down with us to share how she likes to spend the holiday season.

How do you generally like to spend this time of year? Do you typically take a vacation?

I have spent this time in many different ways. I change plans all the time according to where I am in my life when the holidays come. This year, I still do not know if I will stay in Alaska and try to connect as much as possible with the country by going out as much as possible and trying to perform some form of skiing that is manageable for me, or if I will travel on a journey that eventually takes me to Italy, but which stops elsewhere along the way, like Miami or New York or elsewhere.

Do you usually see family and friends? If so, are there any traditions you celebrate or take full part in?

Especially in Alaska, I try to see family and friends on a regular basis, pretty much. Therefore, when the holidays come, I do not feel the need to see them anymore, but I know I will.

What are some holiday traditions you grew up with, or things you have always enjoyed doing at this time of year?

In my childhood, every Christmas Eve at midnight, there was a train of my extended family going through every room in the house in a queue. Each person behind it in front, enters each room, tours around a circle and walks out of the same door – except bathrooms – with the youngest in the family at the helm, holding a small statue of the Child Jesus on a small white embroidered white pillow.

They would be with the eldest aunt in the row, pushing hard and pulling the little one in front at each doorstep to get them going the right way with the whole big family after, while singing a slow religious song a cappella. It was epic, absurd and super fun. At times, one had to avoid meeting the gaze of another family member while the cows coming in and out of the room both went through one door because one could risk breaking out in laughter in this human queue of slow-singing people .

Readers at the moment are probably thinking about how they will spend the season, which hopefully includes a few intimate gatherings, whether virtual or personal. Do you like to entertain, and if so, what do you think is a good party?

All ages, all professions and dogs allowed. That kind of party comes out really well in Alaska!

Pivi with her family on holiday.  Photo courtesy of Paola Pivi.

Pivi with her family on holiday. Photo courtesy of Paola Pivi.

What are your favorite things to do when you have people passing by?

I like potluck dinners that I learned about from Alaska’s native friends. Everyone brings something to share!

Do you have any decorating tips for holiday parties or gatherings?

I never dressed up for a party, just opened the doors. It’s my style, but I really appreciate the party decorations made by friends like the late Enrico Astori, the founder of Driade, or the dinner event by designer Maurizio Pecoraro.

How about tips to keep conversations interesting?

The truth … nothing but the truth!

What does this season look like for you as an artist?

This year has been the busiest in my life. I started with a solo exhibition in Hong Kong at Massimo De Carlo, as all projects still seemed to be frozen by the global health crisis, and ended with a solo exhibition at the Anchorage Museum supported by the Italian Council. Occasionally there were about 26 projects the last time I spoke, including a Louis Vuitton bag designed by me. I feel happily totally exhausted, like a marathon runner bent over the final steps before the finish line. I’m not sure what happened between January and December. Are we really already here?

Pivis Alaska.  Photo courtesy of Paola Pivi.

Pivis Alaska. Photo courtesy of Paola Pivi.

What are you looking forward to?

The continuation of this madness into 2022. I love my life and I know this is the style for the next few months. I want a solo exhibition at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Marseille as soon as the museum reopens after the renovation. And I lookng forward to the release of my great monograph edited by Justine Ludwig and co-published by Phaidon with Anchorage Museum, MAXXI in Rome, Musée d’Art Contemporain and Bass Museum in Miami Beach.

What do you think of when you think of next year?

Next year I would like to connect with my life in Alaska. I now live with a deeper connection to the outside world, as if a missed day outside is a missed day, and my international shows that bring me to the hottest places on earth. Everywhere it feels warm compared to this winter in Alaska!

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