Guglielmo Botter may be Italian-born in and living in Treviso, a small city near Venice. But he is also an American, thanks to his late mother’s family, with dual citizenship.
Someday, Botter would like to relocate to the United States, but for now, he spends a great deal of time making sketches of landmarks in numerous American towns and cities—finishing the drawings back in Italy and exhibiting them in their home locations.
Among the cities whose landmarks he has drawn are Harrisburg and Lancaster, where his work will be shown in two separate exhibits beginning in August.
“My great-grandfather Francesco left the Italian Alps in 1892 at the age of 16 to find a better life in the United States, and, after landing at Ellis Island, he decided to settle in the Pittsburgh area,” Botter said. “He worked hard as a miner for many years until 1900, when he finally got his U.S. citizenship. That same year, he was joined by his young Italian girlfriend, whom he married on Christmas Eve 1900.”
Botter’s grandmother was born in West Lebanon, Pa., holding American citizenship.
“She grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and soon distinguished herself for her artistic talents, so much so that she got a scholarship from Penn State University,” Botter said. “However, she preferred to return to Italy to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, where she fell in love with an Italian fresco artist who taught there.”
But Botter’s mother retained a “longing for America,” he said. “Always in my youth, she advised me to try my professional way overseas.”
Botter completed studies as an architect in 1997, but after several years, had to close his office because of the serious economic crisis that hit Italy in 2010. In agreement with his wife and two young daughters, he decided to listen to his mother’s advice and crossed the ocean again—this time as a fine artist.
Botter and family arrived in Pittsburgh in 2012 to a warm welcome. His drawings of the city constituted his first exhibit in the States and received publicity in the press.
He branched out over the coming years to make drawings of other cities in Virginia, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
He’d like to add Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Williamsburg, Va., to his list.
This August, Botter also will exhibit in New Kensington, Pa., at the Penn State University Campus Art Gallery. There, he will hang his drawings alongside some of his mother’s paintings.
“My goal is to cover the country, from the East Coast to the West,” Botter said.
He comes back every summer for two-and-a-half months and, sometimes, for an additional short trip in the fall to sketch the cities that strike his fancy. He plans new exhibits every year, using the winter to seek connections through the Web.
While he continues to live in Italy, Botter said he’s looking for the right opportunity to move to Pittsburgh, following in his family’s footsteps.
“I am very sorry my parents can’t enjoy my success in the ‘land of opportunity’—both have passed away—but I feel their presence every time I get something good there,” he said.
His exhibits in Harrisburg and Lancaster will feature 16 drawings each.
“I have a special relationship with the cities I have designed in the past,” said Botter. “Before starting to sketch, I need to visit the place, walking around for a couple of days. I need to understand the shape of the city and to find the best views for my work.”
In addition to his drawings, Botter will often sell such merchandise as postcards, note cards, calendars, tote bags and even ceramic items at his exhibits.
What attracted the Art Association of Harrisburg to his work?
“They’re quality drawings, which, technically speaking, are rendered well,” said Rachel O’Connor, AAH’s curator. “There’s a nice push and pull between relaxed and precise line work. They’re also visually interesting, in that they’re reminiscent of looking at an artist’s sketchbook and seeing quick but accurate studies of a city.”
The viewer, she said, gets to see Harrisburg through the artist’s eyes.
“They show buildings and streets that he thinks are important, or at least noteworthy,” she said. “One of the many missions of the visual arts (and all art) is to widen people’s perspectives. Exhibiting Guglielmo’s work does that quite literally.”
The Art Association staff was also struck by Botter’s personality, O’Connor said.
“He is very tenacious when it comes to his art, which is a quality that I consistently see (and greatly admire) in artists,” she said. “He feels a special connection to Pennsylvania through his family history, and he’s determined to make a name for himself here.”
“From Italy to Harrisburg: Street Drawings by Guglielmo Botter” runs Aug. 4 to Oct. 22 at the Art Association of Harrisburg Gallery, 21 N. Front St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.artassocofhbg.com.
Botter’s exhibit in Lancaster runs Aug. 3 to Sept. 30 at the City Hall Gallery, 120 N. Duke St., Lancaster. Visit www.lancasterpublicart.com/city-hall-gallery.