By Barbara Mastej In honor of Women’s History Month, I am elated to have a few of my portraits included in the March edition of the Beachhead. The Venice ladies depicted are from a body of work entitled, “Vestiges of My Venice” I created to pay homage to the people and places that touched me, as well as to document a fading place in history. Some may not be household names, but each has that kind of unique, often unorthodox, spirit that collectively shaped our community.
I moved to Venice in 1988, when it still had a ragged, often dangerous, edge. As a former Detroiter, this didn’t bother me. As an artist, I found beauty in its imperfections. I met some of the most colorful people I have ever known who lived off the beaten path, outside the norm. Many became my friends. Even though, I had a bourgeois life in comparison, I felt simpatico. I didn’t grow up in Venice, yet I was accepted as part of the community. Money or station in life didn’t factor into the equation. Fitting in was defined by your spirit and energy. Being a Venetian was in your genetic code.
Today, Venice is a branded commodity. There are only a few of the authentic nonconformists left and the rest are finding it hard to afford to live here. The influx of money has inevitably blunted the edges, and the raw energy of this place has evaporated. However, just as Abbott Kinney’s initial high brow dream of creating a cultural center mutated into the “Coney Island by the Sea,” change is the one constant. Yet, it’s important to be aware of the ebb and flow of the community. This place will never stop evolving.