Surrounded by wilderness, woods, and waters, Adirondackers are often reminded how solitary the world can sometimes be. Living in the Adirondack Park can sometimes feel like walking a long and lonely trail. Arriving at a remote pond the view may be ours alone on that day, but it’s shared by millions across the world. We feebly tend our six million-acre Adirondack garden for the world, with small hopes of inspiring others to build their own gardens of similar design.
Today we take an opportunity to remember Italian artist Silvia Provera, who passed away a year ago, as one of us – hoping to inspire Adirondack gardens in her own corner of the world. She was a well-known designer and an accomplished artisan carpenter in Europe who became fascinated with the Adirondack region after spotting Adirondack chairs in a garden by the Orbetello Lagoon, in Tuscany.
“She was kind of ‘Adirondack struck’ and began reading all about it, discovering a world behind it,” an Italian friend told me. “In those days she was already working as a carpenter making fantastic doll houses and birds nests, collecting pieces of wood wherever she found them and creating painted birds… She was just a sparkling person, very sensitive and with an incredible taste for combination of colours, and had an excellent relationship with the camera.”
By 2006, Silvia was making about 100 chairs a year, filling Italian homes, patios and gardens with colorful versions of the Adirondack icon. Her chairs were traditionally designed, but also included unique modifications inspired by her own creativity and experience. In her last year her assistant Francisco, a Colombian carpenter, helped her carry on her work.
Silvia visited the Adirondacks in 2010 with her husband Pierluigi “Pigi” Battista (a writer and editor at the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera), spending the short time they had traveling around the region and planning to return. Silvia’s friends said she loved nature from her youth, was a successful gardener, and an animal lover who surrounded herself with dogs, cats, and birds. She was “very much loved by plants and flowers, happy to grow if she was after them,” a friend from Rome told me. With her daughter Marta, she shared a love for horses.
Silvia’s last exhibition was in the spring of 2011 at the Auditorium of Rome’s giardini in terrazza (gardens in the terrace) event by special request of the organizing committee. This year an award for “best artisanal work” was named in her honor. You can still see some of her work on her website Adirondack Garden.
Today, Silvia’s friends and family will be gathering at her laboratorio, a former garage where she worked. Although it’s four thousand miles between our quiet Adirondacks and the bustling city of Rome, when they raise a glass in her memory today, a little piece of us will be there too. It will be a little reminder of just how small a place the world really is, and how much of it we share.
Photos: Above, Silvia, her camera, and an Adirondack chair on the Italian coast; middle, one of Silvia’s bird houses; below, Silvia and Pigi.