17 mins read

Beatrice Ruggeri – Artist

My story is long. Long and complex.
The relationship with my parents was turbulent. Over the years, this has significantly influenced many things in my life – and in my brother’s life too. This is deeply impacted my choices for my future and for the family I have today.

The most important thing for me: my husband David, my children Leonardo to my right and Augusto to my left, in Plymouth, MA (New England)

Back in Italy, the relationship I had with them led me to make rash, hasty choices. I had my first child when I was still very young, at the age of 23. My partner back then and I decided not to get married, even though we had a good relationship. We thought it was too soon. Or maybe we already sensed that we were growing up differently. In fact, when our son, Leonardo, was one and a half years old, we decided not to be together anymore.
It wasn’t a dramatic separation since we cared about each other so much. We still do; moreover, we raised a wonderful son. Nevertheless, it left me with a strange feeling. I felt like I was taking steps that had been taken before. I began to think that I was moving along the path marked by my mother and father.

It took me years to really figure out what my path was and throw myself back into the game, into the game of life.
Then, I met my current husband. We have been married for almost 16 years, and we have a son, who was born 9 years after Leonardo. My husband’s path was completely different from mine, but we had very similar needs when we found each other. He was born and raised in Cuba, in a world apart, under a dictatorship that made even the most simple things complicated.

We met in Italy, where he had previously relocated. It was there that our adventure together began. We came from diametrically opposite backgrounds. Despite that, we realized that we shared the same necessity: to add a new chapter to our stories.
So, with a lot of courage and a bit of recklessness, we sold the few things we had and came to the United States, bringing just a few suitcases.
The new chapter presented itself to us as a blank paper. We would have written the words ourselves, but we knew nothing but some minimal information obtained in Italy before our departure when we arrived. Stuff that would not have been enough to live a totally upside-down experience than the ones we had in our respective countries and life in Italy.

Anyway, we are rewriting our story. We lived two years in Miami, five years in North Carolina, and now we’re in Brooklyn, New York. It’s still a work in progress, as we are both far from our families of origin, and this will always make our path a bit slippery. We have always felt connected to the places we have lived, but not as connected as I was to Rome and Italy in general, and my husband was to Cuba. It seems like our relocations matched with a journey of discovering our personal limits, of the people we have become.
And, in my case, the discovery also involves the professional point of view. In Italy, I worked in education, but I wasn’t completely satisfied. I felt off-track as if I had wings that had yet to unfold, but no one gave me the opportunity to do so. By not being able to spread them out, I hadn’t had a chance to really see who I was on a professional level.
The fact that the United States gave me a blank page made me feel a freedom I had never felt before. I could finally choose, one by one, every word to write my life with. Despite this, writing isn’t always enough. Sometimes, words just need to be edited or erased for the story to be original.
And I write my story every day, aware that it has not yet reached its conclusion.

My husband David and I, in a park in Saratoga Spring in Utah, near where we live and bought hour house.

One of the key episodes in my story was meeting my husband. Without him and his support, I would never have found the courage to take the final step. If it wasn’t for his ideas regarding family and his longing for change, I probably wouldn’t have crossed the ocean. It’s not that it wasn’t a dream of mine even before; however, there is a great distance between imagining something and jumping in.
I believe that the universe is made up of many small pieces. It means that there is always a reason behind every encounter, even behind the unlikely ones. In fact, those are the very ones that later prove to be key moments.
So yes, it all started from there. It’s thanks to that encounter that I am who I am now, that I’m doing what I’m doing, that I decided to leave the country I grew up in.

A country that, at the end of the day, returns over and over in my paintings. Sometimes with nostalgia, sometimes with so much pain.
Not being close to your loved ones has involved (and still involves) so many sacrifices, but it’s always worth it. When someone you care about is going through something important, it’s hard to accept that you can’t be there; I’m particularly thinking about someone passing away. It’s exhausting to find the strength to choose this life every day, but I always do.
And now I’m in chapter two; that’s how I call my life in the United States. A chapter that has not been marked by a critical episode. It is, instead, a series of episodes of encounters.

Encounters with people who are totally different from me. With a different history, who speak a foreign language, who grew up with different education. But with whom, nonetheless, a unique, special bond has been created, based on exchange. I offer something from my background, and they help me evolve, day after day. I am constantly evolving, also thanks to the encounter with the Other.

How weird it is to notice that, initially, the reason that pushed me to open a second chapter was due to a negative feeling to the dissatisfaction and frustration that characterized the last years of my life in Italy. For goodness sake, they were great moments, as it’s always nice when friends and family are around. Still, from a personal and work perspective, I felt profoundly disappointed and bitter.
I couldn’t have accepted that it was the purpose of my life. Everyone has a life purpose, and the most important thing is to define it as much as possible. To do that, you must respect your nature, accept yourself for who you are and express yourself the way you want.
It takes a clean break. In my case, because of the type of relationship I had with my family, I needed to detach completely. There were ties, especially with the women in the family – my mother, my grandmother, my aunt – that held me back, didn’t let me express myself.
It wasn’t easy to emancipate. I couldn’t focus on myself, follow my direction, look where I wanted to go. Hence, the choice to go so far away.
Inside me, I felt the need for a definitive break. To say no.
It had become too risky to live on the edge of the precipice, of the unknown. It was time to challenge myself and come out. “When you come out, the woman you really are will shine,” I told myself.

Before, I was living a half-life. The Beatrice of the first chapter was much less serene, less mentally free than she is now. I have accepted myself as I am and no longer feel the weight of judgment. My unconscious was filled with judgment and self-criticism, even though it was dictated by love and not malice. I wanted to free myself from it.
Thus, I also found that I was grateful to so many people.
I am grateful to everyone who, negatively or positively, met my soul. They made me grow. They made me who I am today.

I am grateful to my parents, to their imperfections and their dramas. They showed me what I wanted and what I didn’t for my life and my family.
I am grateful to my husband because it wouldn’t be easy for anyone to accept the perpetual motion I carry inside, the desire for change that never leaves me.

I am grateful to my children. Motherhood has changed me, giving me a strength I didn’t think I had. Sometimes, when my mind tries to stray into my typical flights of fancy, they are the ones who keep me grounded. They help me turn a dream into a goal. Dreaming is wonderful, it’s true, but it’s not enough; you also must get in touch with your needs, bring them down to practice and turn them into projects.

I am grateful to my two countries.
I’m grateful to Italy for giving me frustration and for making me discover that it was possible to get out of it. For providing me with a baggage full of sophistication and culture that made it possible for me to adapt elsewhere.
I’m grateful to the United States because, with its limitations, contradictions and the things that still need to be clarified, it is a country where a person can really breathe an air of freedom and democracy. Only here did I feel so free that I could change the things I didn’t like about myself through small daily choices. It’s a system that allows you to take responsibility for your choices, to have no excuses. Here, if you want to change, you can.

We all dream of change, but some are particularly afraid of it. The fact is that we have to let ourselves go to the natural course of things, which are constantly evolving. We are continually evolving, and we should be able, in one life, to experience many without this involving any sense of guilt.
I am particularly sensitive to the issue of guilt. In my family context, no one ever made me believe in my talent, quite the contrary. My artistic vocation was considered little more than a simple pastime. It is essential to change the narrative with which this mechanism is told, especially to young people.
If one possesses a talent, one should follow it without ever feeling guilty. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t imply a steady job, since in some cases, it’s the talent itself that saves you. As it happened to me, for example.

Once I arrived in the United States, I had to spend the first year without working due to a series of bureaucratic complications. While on stand-by, I started volunteering at a small art school; during that time, I was able to relive a tranquillity that I thought I had lost forever. I picked up paper, pencils, and markers again and, in a way that was as spontaneous as it was definitive, I was finally able to make art my job. As soon as I found myself alone with my own strength and no longer felt crushed by family pressures, I rolled up my sleeves.

Now I live off art. I am a teacher, teaching art to children. I actively strive, every single day, to change the narrative with which they are told about art.
You don’t have to be afraid of change, even though it involves sacrifice or pain. It is an all-inclusive package. You can’t enjoy the glory without first going through an effort, a little bit of pain, a sacrifice.
It’s about embracing the change. Flowing into progressive personal change. Without it meaning being judged or criticized.

My work and me. Recent work in collaboration with an Italian blogger and photographer that lives in California.

For my story, I imagine the same title I gave to a collection of paintings I painted a couple of years ago: suspended between colors. In life, colors represent everything. Loves and affections. Failures and losses. Nostalgia. The joy of finding oneself. The new challenges. The changes that will continue to happen.

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