Donald Fels

Civita Collages

2012, Mixed media collages and found materials on paper

In 2012, Fels was a fellow at the Northwest Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in Italy (NIAUSI) in Civita, Italy. Civita is a stunning but essentially abandoned hilltown in Tuscany. Donald and Patricia were there in January and February 2012, during one of the coldest winters in memory. There was snow on the ground for much of the time, a very rare occurrence; and without a resident population there was nobody to shovel or even salt the walkways. They were house-bound for days at a time, which in fact, in the beautifully restored (and heated) stone house had its distinct pleasures. Fels had come to Civita to carry out research into the mordant alum in nearby Tolfa and Allumiere, which fortunately he did before the snow flew.

Architect and professor Astra Zarina established the NIAUSI Center at Civita, and the lovely library there houses many of her books. She collected picture postcards whenever she traveled, usually ones depicting buildings, and her legions of students, friends and admirers sent others. A basket in the library had many of these postcards, with instructions that the fellows should put them to use. With time on his hands, Fels began a series of small collages, incorporating imagery from the postcards.