Art Makes International Connections

Posted December 9, 2015 by The Argonaut in This Week

Santa Monica’s Building Bridges Art Exchange pairs Venice artist J.J. L’Heureux with Italian abstractionist Franco Marrocco

By Kathy Leonardo

Venice artist J.J. L’Heureux crafted collage from old-world Italian  cheese wrappers

Venice artist J.J. L’Heureux crafted collage from old-world Italian
cheese wrappers

It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what language you speak: Art is a universal language.

For the past 10 years, the Building Bridges Art Exchange at the Bergamot Station Art Center in Santa Monica has been working to connect artists across the globe to exchange ideas and share creative breakthroughs.

On Saturday, the nonprofit launches two new solo exhibitions — one from far away and one from close to home.

The main gallery space hosts international artist Franco Marrocco’s “The Red Studio & Other Works,” and concurrently in the project room Venice-based artist J.J. L’Heureux is showcasing her collage work in “Etichette.”

Executive director and curator Marisa Caichiolo founded Building Bridges Art Exchange through collaboration with designer Mayra De Giovanni of Argentina and contemporary artist Jaime Delfin Villafuerte of Mexico. The program now networks with foundations, museums and cultural centers in more than 25 countries. Next year it will begin a residency program to bring international artists to the U.S. to further their work.

In the meantime, Caichiolo is excited about the upcoming exhibit.

“Franco Marrocco is a master of color,” she said. “His tendency towards abstract art introduces a painting of lyrical tones in which color dilutes the representation and the construction of the narrative to welcome the emotions.”

A native of Italy and currently director of the prestigious Academy Brera in Milano, Marrocco is an established artist who has been featured in several international solo exhibitions over the years and participated 54th Biennale di Venezia in 2011.

Caichiolo said that after seeing J.J. L’Heureux’ s “Etichette” series during a visit to the artist’s Venice studio, she immediately knew it would be a good fit with Marrocco’s exhibit.

L’Heureux, whose work hangs in museums and galleries throughout the world, is a globetrotting photographer who has embarked on 15 photography exhibitions to Antarctica but also creates collage and mixed media work.

While her annual treks to the Antarctic inspire much of her work, it was a trip to Italy that led L’Heureux to begin her “Etichette” series.

While living in San Francisco in 1989, her home was “red tagged” after the 1989 earthquake and she was invited to stay with friends in Italy. Warmed by their hospitality, she knew she wanted to find a way to say thank you. She noticed the old world-charm of the packaging of the local cheeses and found a way to create delicate collages featuring the wrappers of the cheeses that her friends shared with her. Without art supplies, she actually hand stitched the labels onto the paper.

“Each Etichette is a small story and a memory for me,” L’Heureux said.

Caichiolo often collaborates with guest curators, such as Giovanni Iovane, who co-curated Marrocco’s exhibit.

Italian artist and curator Anna Dusi has worked with Building Bridges Art Exchange for eight years.

“As a curator dealing with different cultures and different souls, I can say just how inspirational and powerful it is to be part of this,” Dusi said.

Opening receptions for “Etichette” and “The Red Studio & Other Works” happen from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, at Building Bridges Art Exchange in the Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., F-2, Santa Monica. Free. Call (310) 770-1961 or email to RSVP. For more information, visit


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