Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist


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Art of Place: Studio Sicilia

Nothing's simple in this world anymore, now that it's run by the internet – but was it ever?

Sometimes after a long day, I wish I could just say to friends: "I'll pop home then meet you for a drink after work." But the home I own is a little art studio, located in a Sicilian town thousands of miles from Beijing, where I technically live.

My friends are scattered around the world. A minority of them live in Beijing.

(A very small minority. Like maybe one or two.)

Now that we live in a world so connected, where the place we choose to live means at once more and less than it ever did before, strange things happen. Fringe movements are born, like Location Independence, the founders of which have even admitted that they 'failed' in their initial goals to live and work anywhere, because they were looking for a home.

And I too have been surprised to find that, after the Man's and my promiscuous living habits of the past decade, changing countries every few years, having a bricks-and-mortar home means more to us than ever. (Though, contrary to what you might think when reading that last convoluted sencence, we aren't swingers. Not yet, anyway. Never say never…)

studio exterior

The place and the people we're born to are the foundation of our accents and worldview, our habits and health. But now that humanity has become more mobile, and life more pixellated, we have more choices about how – and where – we live.

And 'home' has become a more flexible concept than ever before.

Several years ago when I bought this little house off the internet in a Sicilian town I'd never visited, we had a few ideas of what we'd do with it, besides go bankrupt fixing it up (which ended up being much easier than I'd imagined – the going bankrupt part).

* I wanted a place to stash my artwork, and make more, someday.

* A place where we could see our families and friends, and maybe make another friend or two.

* A studio to share with artists and other creatives who work with paper. I named this imaginary studio (Studio Sicilia) and bought the URL before signing the final papers.

movana in window outside

After years of dreaming and renovations, the first artist came to stay and make work in the studio this spring. She was inspired by the unique place that is Cianciana, a town in southern Sicily.

Movana Chen brought her Traveling Into Your Bookshelf project to the island:

paolo scarf on steps 2

Was featured in a Sicilian newspaper, and made a video of her project.

Movana in La Sicilia

Then, this summer, Spanish architects booked a holiday in the studio on the Air Bnb website, and now a Berlin-based writer is unwinding there, seeking a relaxing alternative to urban life. All of them bring their own perspectives to Cianciana, and bring life to the rooms when we're not there.

It's like an instant teleporter.

After a hazy day in Beijing, when I see the visitors' photos and hear their stories, I inhale all of it: the fresh air and local cheese and wine and the heavy gravel of the Ciancianese dialect. Like all ancient towns, Cianciana is a combination of sights, sounds and smells that exists nowhere else.

It's a home I return to in my mind, no matter where the rest of me may be that week. Even if, in true American fashion, I bought my way there, instead of being born into it.

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