Overunder and his Bro create "Nostalgia"
A migration story has just been completed between Osnago, Italy, and Vogorno, Switzerland, by two Reno artist brothers who traced their great-great-grandfather's journey via bicycle adventure this summer.
"At either end of the bicycle trip I proposed to create a mural. Or half mural to be exact," says Erik Burke, a street artist (Overunder) who has worked on walls in many cities over the last decade. He proposed the idea of creating half a portrait of Guisseppe Mozzetti in each town. "Each mural would be painted at the border of a building to create a break in the composition. By allowing the imagery to break at the edge it hopefully would hint at the absence of image, identity, and a larger picture," he explains.
Using their only known photo of him for a study, these brothers connected the story of his past and their family roots going back to the mid 1800s. They say that the art project and the entire trip gave them a unique opportunity to study the countries and cultures that formed him before he eventually immigrated to the United States (Reno, Nevada) in 1890.
"My brother and I were navigating the Ticino countryside on borrowed mountain bikes without a map or knowledge of the language," Erik says. "Regardless we approached most encounters with 'Tutto bene' and we think we came to a deeper understanding of both pizza and penne, valleys and peaks, nostos and algos."
Those last two words speak directly to the name of the collaborative two-mural immigration mural project which they named "Nostalgia". According to the brothers there was a certain sentimentality about the natural beauty of the countries and the people whom they encountered on their trip. All of the gathered information also permitted them to imaginine what this great great grandfather may have been like.
Erik explains, "The word nostalgia is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος (nóstos), meaning "homecoming" and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning "pain, ache". The term was coined by a 17th-century medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home. As I discovered my own Swiss heritage I wondered what nostalgia would mean to someone like me - a person not going home but curious about his family's home."
The story of actual research is slightly more complicated, including targeted emails to strangers in Vogorno in search of a possible wall to paint. Erik was already booked to paint a mural for a festival in Osnago (La Voce Del Corpo Festival) so his vision of sharing this bike trip with his brother needed a welcoming person willing to have their building painted at when they arrived in Switzerland.
"After many failed attempts at making contact with Vogorno residents I sent a seemingly unlikely email to a woman I found on the Internet who was running the Rustico Cioss who happened to share the Mozzetti name. Luckily she responded and a dialogue grew," says Erik of the detective work that finally landed their artwork on the right building. "Her family research unearthed a document for Giuseppe Mozzetti and a few emails later she had secured permission from the municipality for the mural and was allowing us not only to paint on the house of Giuseppe Mozzetti but also stay there!"
The images form physical and psychological bookends to an immigrant story that both brothers found profound and rewarding. It also raised more questions about the concept of borders and nationality - a search further elucidated by way of painting and meeting new people.
"Many borders presented themselves to us throughout the ride from Osnago to Vogorno in the form of dialect, currency, value, power sources, politics, culture, and physical geography. The painting component also utilizes my own physical borders by taking advantage of moments of fatigue and endurance directly following cycling to paint these works," he concludes.
Erik and Mike would like to extend their great thanks to Mayor Paolo Brivio of Osnago and the many people of Osnago and Vogorno for their hospitality - especially Bruno Freddi, Michele, Frederica, Enrico, Flavio, Fabio, Jacopo, and Valeria for their generous support and friendship.
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