SSB AWAY ITALY| Rachel Levitsky Reflects on her time in Podere Mallabiccia


Hello from Rachel Levitsky at Podere Mallabiccia, Petroio, Italy, SSB’s first Tuscany Residency

I choose this one above of the many photos I’ve take to begin to tell about the wonders of the casina at Malabiccia. I don’t like describing what is better being seen or as I wanted to write on a post on Instagram (I’m at bohopo12 in case you’d like to see more…i’ve been posting many…i’ll hashtag them all to #someseriousbusinessorg) that it’s too bad I can’t represent the smells of these photographed moments. Not to mention the way the air feels and the sounds of the birds, the clanging bells of next door Petroio (see next photo). It’s extremely sensual here.


I left NYC the morning after the election. So it’s hard to hold on to the buoyancy that sneaks in when somehow my body forgets surrounding political reality. What a lesson that is. Despite this feeling of dread of what is to come and the need to organize ourselves for a long haul of assault, my time here has also been great at every moment, the countryside is breathtakingly beautiful, the little towns are historical and painted in burnt and raw sienna, a color’s name I learned here does indeed come from the town (city-state?) of Siena, which I did venture out to a couple of days ago. I feel a tension between staying in this perfect casina working and being out in a place with so much to see and feel about. So I alternate…it’s a residency so I reside!

I am taking SSB celebration of incubation (and rest!) seriously. Although in the middle of a semester and many projects, I am in the space of wondering into. I have started to draw again for the first time in 35 years. The half person-half animal images in the illuminated manuscripts and that inform so much church iconography seem somehow relevant to my own feeling of having a head cut off and the collective head being cut off by the election and its aftermath. I am rereading Giorgio Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal, a book about the human tragedy of having a caesura (rupture and open and continued space of separation) with animals—Agamben in this book claims that this issue is more important to take on than “so called human rights and values.” He continues “And perhaps even the most luminous sphere of our relations with the divine depends, in some way, on that darker one which separates us from the animal.” I don’t know about that, about hierarchies for disasters but the question of what defines the human does seem important right now and our closeness and distance to animals, creatures, earth no doubt shapes our relation with each other.

I will keep this short and full of gratitude. For Some Serious Business, for Quintan Ana Wikswo, for Carey Maxon, for Susan Martin and Rosa and Giotto, for Mallabiccia.

As Carey keeps exclaiming, look, look!