Doors of Memory - Porte della Memoria

October 8, 2015 through January 10, 2016

Eleanor M. Imperato

Eleanor M. Imperato is a freelance writer, poet, and photographer. She has traveled extensively since her immigration to the United States from Italy. As a college student spending her junior year in London, England, she toured Great Britain from Land's End to the Scottish Highlands and trekked all over Europe. Eleanor continued to explore far-flung parts of the world: Timbuktu, Macau, Beirut, Tehran, Nairobi … Not to mention Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Nome, Alaska, where she ran in a dog sled race! Antarctica is her next destination.

All those experiences have fed her creativity and she has expressed it in her work. After doing field research in Kenya, Eleanor co-authored a biography of Martin and Osa Johnson, They Married Adventure, with her husband, Pascal James Imperato. She is the author of Woman's Work, her first collection of poems. Her second, Purple Sins, is in preparation. In addition, she is collaborating with her sisters Patrizia Maiella, translator of Doors of Memory, and Tonia Maiella, on a book about their Italian-American experiences during the late 1950s and 1960s in New York City.

Eleanor's most cherished roles are those of mother and wife, sharing her interests in philosophy, history, art and dance with her children, Alison, Gavin, and Austin, and her husband Pat. In Manhasset, where she resides, she has served the community occupying many executive leadership positions. She is currently on the College Fund Board of Queensborough Community College as well as on the Board of the Dance Department at Marymount Manhattan College where she received a BA in English. She subsequently received an MA in Liberal Studies from New York University.

About the Exhibit

Memories of my birthplace, Avella, Italy, have always been suffused with the warmth of family, mountain vistas, and the ever present sight of a medieval castle on a hill. At home in New York I wrote poems and reminiscences of my early experiences in Avella. However, during my visits there, I enjoyed walking all over town taking photos.

Very soon it became apparent that I was crafting an essay of my feelings for Avella: not in words, but in photographs. I was focusing on old buildings, old doors, old crumbling walls. Together with the aesthetics of peeling paint, rough wood, sunlight and shadows they spoke to me of longevity and endurance. I began to see ancient doors and windows as openings into the memories of my childhood in Avella. They provided me with an appreciation of Avella's past and of the lives of my ancestors. In addition, they also served as contrast to the present as I photographed modern doors. Even more important, however, was the confirmation of what the heritage of birth in this particular town really meant to me.

In this photographic essay, I seek to share the sense of rootedness to the land of my birth that is embodied by the old doors and windows. They are channels between my Italian legacy and my native Italian language on the one hand, and my adopted American identity and English language on the other. I hope that viewers, immigrants or not, will feel that primeval pull that birthplace elicits in our hearts, without diminishing the strong identity we feel for the place we call home.

Beginning with the castle, the iconic symbol of Avella, and the beacon that always beckons me, the photos seek to share with the audience my intimate perspective on Avella. Like the doors, she is beautiful in her weathered wood; she is playful in the crags of her crumbling walls; she is still strong and resilient like the locks and hinges on her doors.

Above all, she is wise. She knows that life is a paradox. At once ancient and youthful, she shows rebirth through new openings to the modern world as depicted in the two photos of a contemporary door and an iron gate.

The last photo in the exhibit shows trees literally growing above a locked door. This suggests that life springs anew from ancient secrets buried under the earth. They may seem locked away forever, but through my camera lens I found the key, opened the doors of memory, and stepped into a treasure trove.

- Eleanor Maiella Imperato