Lately I discovered an artist born in the same region I live in, Sardinia (Italy), Edina Altara and her sisters, but I will talk a little bit about Edina, for me a very interesting artist, because she was a paper artist like me and she was a mixed media artist…like me! She has spent her life between Sardinia and Northern Italy between the end of the Nineteenth Century and the 1980s.
She was a very talented self-taught artist who ventured from applied arts (paper, ceramics, fabric, glass) to painting. And her two sisters, Lavinia e Iride, accompanied her in her search. I was leafing through some art books, when by chance I discovered her name a few months ago. A series of her drawings intrigued me because they had something in common with some of my art work. She used the paper like a tridimensional media, like me..and she thought toys with paper, like me! She made some particular paper dolls and paper toys. They are representative of a sardinian world, but I think she made interesting shapes for animals and people, like a ‘new world’ with traditions in it. A world to study for me, for sure!
Here you can see pictures of some of her work that has unfortunately gone lost.
It was unbelievable. I did not know her at all, I had never heard her name and I do not think I had ever seen any of her art work during the years I have spent in Sardinia (except for a happy coincidence when I saw one of her dishes at the at the “Lenci” exhibition in Cagliari, precisely at the time when I was reading her biography). Is that because she is not one of those artists who end up in school books? And I wonder: why those artists who create art with different materials and venture into painting, glass, ceramics, jewellery, tapestry, puppets, stay always one step behind those who create art in the sense of sculpture or painting? Does it mean that just engaging into applied arts makes artists less important? I do not know, but I suspect what do you think?
Anyway, Edina starts creating her first collages in 1914 after a childhood full of pencils, colours, and paper cuttings. When she was a child she made her own toys thanks to her extraordinary dexterity… but her official debut takes place after the First Wold War, in November 1916 at the Mostra Campionaria del Giocattolo italiano (Italian toys trade fair) in Milan. Here you can see pictures of some of her work that has unfortunately gone lost. Thanks to these creations she won the Silver Medal: she exhibited colourful cardboard toys, looking very much like puppets or paper dolls. They are extremely original as they depict some of her islander childhood and teenage experiences, don’t you think?
From then on, Edina exhibits her work during many shows, her life is rich with cultural encounters, she meets Gio Ponti and many other intellectual personalities, she works for fashion magazines, creates cartoons, furnishing fabrics, she works with artists and architects, decorates shops and houses (and creates trompe-l’oeil for tables) and she even decorates liners! In fact; some furniture were created for the legendary Andrea Doria. The three sisters stories intertwine and engage into various arts. But, incredibly, their names just start to be known now That’s why I wanted to write about them here. I recommend you read books about her and her sisters; you’ll be amazed by her versatility, her talent and her work, so incredibly contemporary!