Italian inspiration

Camas Gallery to feature renowned fresco artist Maria Grazia Repetto throughout January

If You Go:
  • What: First Friday reception for Italian artist Maria Grazia Repetto
  • When: 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 5
  • Where: Camas Gallery, 408 N.E. Fourth Ave.
  • More information: 360-817-2415 or www.camasgallery.com

This four-piece painting of an erhu, a two-stringed Chinese musical instrument, by Italian artist Maria Grazia Repetto, will be featured throughout the month of January, along with several other pieces of Repetto's artwork, at the Camas Gallery, 408 N.E. Fourth Ave., in downtown Camas. (Contributed photo courtesy of Maria Grazia Repetto)

An etching of a classical ballet dancer shows Italian artist Maria Grazia Repetto's range of artistic abilities. Known for her large fresco murals, Repetto -- Camas Gallery's featured January artist -- also has experience working with oils, acrylics, watercolors, bas-relief, sculpture, pencil, pen and ink, etchings and engravings.

Maria Grazia Repetto holds a print of her mural featuring historic downtown Camas, circa 1900. The original mural hangs over the front entrance of the Camas Gallery, at 408 N.E. Fourth Ave., and prints, including the one shown here, are sold inside the gallery.

When Maria Grazia Repetto moved from her native Italy to the Pacific Northwest in 1995, she immediately fell in love with eastern Washington’s cowboy-country charm and Seattle’s moody, rain-soaked landscapes.

“It was so similar, but so different,” Repetto says. “I loved the colors of the Northwest, but they were different from Italy. The blue of an Italian sky, for example, is the blue of the Madonna, while the blue sky here is more of a light purple, a softer blue.”

The natural beauty seduced Repetto and she was glad to be closer to her oldest son, who had moved to Ellensburg, Washington, to attend flight school. But, with only her younger son in tow and very little grasp of the English language, the Italian artist says she was, in those early days after her move to the United States, somewhat lonely.

“It was a crazy idea — moving here,” Repetto says, laughing. “I didn’t speak any English. But I wanted to leave Italy and my sister asked me, ‘Where do you want to go?’ I said, “India!’ but she said, ‘India? Why? You have a son in the U.S. Why not there?’ So, I came to Ellensburg.”

Eventually, Repetto found her place in the Northwest. In just two decades, she has helped bring new life to fresco painting throughout the western U.S., teaching art instructors how to master the technique and, in turn, teach fresco painting to their own young students.

Having helped restore classic fresco paintings in Italy’s churches and castles in the 1970s, Repetto appreciates the historical significance of fresco painting, but says the technique transcends historical texts and can be used to create modern pieces on interior or exterior surfaces. Since moving to the U.S. in the mid-1990s, Repetto has done a variety of fresco paintings for private and public clients: including a 2,000-square-foot interior “fresco opus” that covered the walls and ceilings in a Seattle home; a contemporary fresco on the wall of Pike Street’s Tower 801 in Seattle; several interior designs for private clients in California and Arizona; and public murals in downtown Camas.

On Friday, Jan. 5, Repetto will be the featured artist at the Camas Gallery’s First Friday art reception. Her work will be shown at the downtown Camas gallery throughout January.

This isn’t the first time that Camas-area art lovers have seen Repetto’s work, of course. In 2013, Camas Gallery co-owner Marquita Call asked Repetto to craft the fresco mural that now hangs over the gallery’s front entrance.

Based on a series of historical photographs that Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brent Erickson provided for the Camas-Washougal Mural Project, the mural shows visitors what they may have seen if they had stood on Division Street in the early 1900s, and looked south, into the heart of downtown Camas. The paper mill, of course, dominated the town during those days and is a major part of the artwork, but the mural also shows shops lining Camas’ historic downtown streets.

Originally, Repetto says, she and Call had hoped to do the mural on the exterior wall of the gallery. When they realized that the building’s surface was too rough, they revised the plan and Repetto painted the mural on separate pieces of treated wood, designed to grace the gallery entrance and withstand the elements.

Call sells prints of Repetto’s mural inside her gallery and says the historic representation of Camas is especially important now that Georgia-Pacific has decided to severely reduce operations at the historic paper mill.

Although she specializes in fresco murals, Repetto, who earned her Master of Fine Arts at the renowned Accademia Delle Belle Arti art school in Italy, also has extensive experience working with oils, acrylics, watercolors, sculpture, pencil, pen and ink, etchings and engravings.

Repetto’s work will hang in the Camas Gallery throughout January, with an artist reception planned for 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 5, at the gallery, 408 N.E. Fourth Ave., as part of the monthly Downtown Camas Association’s First Friday festivities.

For more information about the Camas Gallery, visit www.camasgallery.com. For more information about Repetto, visit www.laffresco.com.