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Talking with… Stefania Cancemi
Artist shows travel-inspired work at Gallery Espresso

Nov. 3-30; Reception Nov. 14, 6-8 pm

Gallery Espresso, 234 Bull Street

TWO SMALL human figures walk into a desert landscape. The sun beats down.

A solitary man walks across a wind-swept bridge. The camera lens is wet from rain.

An old man rings the doorbell of a sketchy apartment. But is anyone even home?

In Stefania Cancemi’s photographs, the Turkish landscape is forlorn and disconnected. People are infinitesimal. And there’s a sense of anticipation.

“Turkish people are very warm,” she says. “But at the same time, when you’re there and you have to work, you do it at a fast pace. So you don’t actually have a lot of time to stop.”

Italian-born Cancemi is studying animation at the Savannah College of Art and Design. But she lived in Turkey for three months during a study abroad program several years ago.

And Gallery Espresso will be showing some of her Turkish portfolio in November.

“It’s so crowded and there are so many people,” she says of Istanbul. “But at the same time, you’re kind of alone as well.”

Cancemi’s evocative photos remind me of the well-known Savannah photographer Jack Leigh’s often forsaken and lonely coastal images. They’re serendipitous yet carefully composed. They’re mysterious yet pregnant with meaning.

Take the first photo that I mentioned, for example.

“These guys were walking and they were really, really small compared to the rest of the composition,” Cancemi says. “So I was lucky and had the time.”

The whole shot took about five minutes. But she had to go to Cappadocia, a region in central Turkey, to get it.

A few photos from Sicily round out the exhibit. But photos aren’t the only art that she has going for her.

In fact, I get the sense that photography is a small part of her current work and interest.

“What I’d like to do is to work for feature movies,” Cancemi says.

She’s especially interested in “3D texture art.” I never had heard those words combined until my interview with her.

A “3D texture artist” is the specialized motion graphic designer responsible for getting the textures right in animations: Skin, pores, hair, eyes and mouths.

She’s already got a lightning bolt of an animated video under her belt inspired by MTV.

“I’ve always been really fond of their advertising," Cancemi says of the youthful (if not young anymore) network. "They’re really creative.”

Her online portfolio includes a walking animated creature whose outrageous hair morphs in size, fuzziness and color in a 23-second station identifier inspired by MTV. The animation was made for the Italian TV commercial studio Anteprimavideo.

“Nothing is random. Everything is calculated. And there are key frames for each change. Yeah, it took me a while to make that,” Cancemi says. “It’s one of my first experiments with the hair module.”

For a first experiment, I have to say, “Wow.”

She also designed an elegant underwater video for winemaker Ca del Bosco, under the direction of another one of her inspirations, the Italian artist Giuseppe La Spada.

“We share the same point of view,” Cancemi says.  “He let me do whatever I thought was right to do in order to get this look.”

The video features a woman floating gracefully in a bubbling watery landscape.

Her works-in-progress include a realistic-looking computer-generated landscape evoking Mt. Roirama, the cloud-covered mesa in Venezuela.

“This place is just gorgeous,” Cancemi says.  “It’s a mountain rising up in the middle of the desert.”

But her mountain comes entirely from her imagination (by way of computer programs that I bet are a bit more complicated than my Adobe Audition, an audio editing software.)

“I’m just really excited to exhibit here in the U.S.,” she says of her first show since coming to SCAD.  “That’s what makes me really happy.”