An Art Exhibition Among the Olive Trees in Umbria

An olive grove in Trevi was transformed into the ideal art exhibition venue, hosting installations that reflect on the pandemic and human nature.
Virginia Ryan at the exhibition Actualizing Tendencies
By Ylenia Granitto
Sep. 8, 2021 09:23 UTC

Activities besides farm­ing are increas­ingly tak­ing place in Italy’s olive groves.

The grow­ing need for open-air set­tings in the wake of the Covid-19 pan­demic favors the use of places that pro­vide a peace­ful and healthy envi­ron­ment.

It was an event of art, com­mu­nity, nature and beauty.- Virginia Ryan, Australian artist

These fac­tors prompted an Australian visual artist, Virginia Ryan, to host an exhi­bi­tion at her prop­erty in Trevi, Umbria.

Before we came here, we lived in sev­eral coun­tries around the world, and my art has influ­ences from all the dif­fer­ent places where I stayed,” Ryan told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Greek Painter Dedicates Athens Mural to the History of Olive Oil Production

Among oth­ers, I have worked closely with anthro­pol­o­gists, and I have a strong ten­dency to cre­ate a rela­tion­ship with the place where I am,” added the artist, whose work includes draw­ing, paint­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy and instal­la­tions.

In 2016, she moved to the Umbrian town in the province of Perugia with her hus­band and set­tled in an estate that com­prises an olive grove and housed an oil mill until the 1950s.

Due to its par­tic­u­lar urban struc­ture, the olive trees are located right in the his­toric cen­ter of Trevi, over­look­ing the val­ley below.

Last year, in the after­math of the Covid-19 restric­tion mea­sures that we all have expe­ri­enced, I started work­ing in the orchard,” she said. I have a great affin­ity for all my plants.”

When it came time for Ryan to do some main­te­nance among the groves, she decided to revive them.

After the lock­down, [the orchard] acquired a new mean­ing,” she said.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Trebisonda and Freemocco asso­ci­a­tions, Ryan brought together as many as 47 artists for a one-day event held on the sum­mer sol­stice. The art­works, mostly instal­la­tions, were dis­played among the olive trees.

I really liked the idea of the sol­stice enchant­ment and also the fact of work­ing for a very elu­sive moment,” she said. We had already orga­nized a first one-night event in a part of the gar­den, with about 30 artists, in 2015.”

Then, towards the end of last year, we started think­ing about a new event,” Ryan added. We hoped that for the begin­ning of the sum­mer, with the relax­ation of social dis­tanc­ing mea­sures, we could be phys­i­cally close again. Eventually, it was pos­si­ble, and we planned the exhi­bi­tion called Actualizing Tendencies.’”


Virginia Ryan

Developed in the 1960s by the American psy­chol­o­gist Carl Rogers, the actu­al­iz­ing ten­dency is a con­cept that refers to an active push for the organ­ism to improve itself via bet­ter orga­ni­za­tion, ful­fill­ment of its poten­tial and growth.

Rogers used the exam­ple of a potato plant that he saw grow­ing in a cel­lar in Dublin,” Ryan said. The lit­tle sprout climbed up the wall towards a fee­ble ray of light. I thought the idea of a vital drive within every liv­ing organ­ism is a very pos­i­tive and affir­ma­tive con­cept at a time when we have to move towards light, open­ness and growth again.”

In the weeks before the exhi­bi­tion, the artists were invited to visit the site and see the spaces that would have hosted their works, almost all of which were instal­la­tions.


The set­ting-up in the olive grove was ideal,” said the artis­tic cura­tor Davide Silvioli, who, along with Mara Predicatori, wrote the texts for the exhi­bi­tion cat­a­log.

Perched on ter­races, the orchard allowed the vis­i­tors to fol­low a path, between the plants and the cor­re­spond­ing works, which unrav­eled through the ele­ments of the site, namely the olive trees, the earth and the medieval wall around the grove,” Silvioli said.

Following the claim of the exhi­bi­tion, that is the vital impe­tus of nature that affirms itself beyond con­tin­gen­cies, the artists were prompted to cre­ate works that con­vey this con­cept, a dimen­sion that all of us as indi­vid­u­als have recently expe­ri­enced,” he added.

The event also had the aim of recon­nect­ing an artis­tic net­work that had become some­what frayed after all that hap­pened,” Silvioli con­tin­ued. It lasted one day for the sym­bolic sig­nif­i­cance of the sol­stice as a cli­matic, mete­o­ro­log­i­cal, uni­ver­sal pas­sage, and the artists were required to phys­i­cally attend it to rein­force this sym­bol­ism and effec­tively trans­mit the vital impe­tus through art.”

Some works have been located at the base of the olive trees; other instal­la­tions have gen­tly been leaned on the branches – the works of art were always devised in rela­tion to the plants.


In the shadow of an olive tree, the Tuscan artist Samantha Passaniti con­ceived and set up the instal­la­tion Uncertain Floor,’ an uneven pave­ment made of loose tiles, which are actu­ally wooden boards coated with white pig­ment from the fam­ily car­pen­try busi­ness and placed on the ground. The stalk of a suc­cu­lent plant springs from a gap at its core.

I wanted to trans­mit the idea of walk­ing on the rub­ble of a blown floor,” she said. The sense of uncer­tainty that we all went through in the last period char­ac­ter­ized by the pan­demic was dis­rup­tive, yet for many of us was cru­cial to find new sta­bil­ity, a renewed sense of hope.”

One slow step after another, I fol­low the oscil­la­tion that the wob­bly sup­port sug­gests until I feel sta­bil­ity, and I finally can take another step for­ward,” Passaniti added. Uncertainty, inse­cu­rity, patience, lis­ten­ing and trust are essen­tial ele­ments with­out which there is no move­ment.“


Uncertain Floor by Samantha Passaniti

In this com­pli­cated dance towards some­thing desired and per­haps only imag­ined, a green sprout rises between the cracks of this demol­ished soil to sig­nify that what we were look­ing for was here already,” she con­tin­ued.

The mayor of Trevi, Bernardino Sperandio, was present at the event, which was attended by local peo­ple, art con­nois­seurs and enthu­si­asts, col­lec­tors and artists.

This event is not intended to be annual, but occa­sional,” Ryan said. At this time, it was also a way of pay­ing trib­ute to the land that has nour­ished and sup­ported us in this dif­fi­cult time.”

We have put together body, spirit, appre­ci­a­tion, strug­gle, and I was so moved by every­one’s gen­eros­ity that allowed us to arrange every­thing with great har­mony,” she con­cluded. It was an event of art, com­mu­nity, nature and beauty.”


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