2017 - 2019

Rachele Maistrello uses the landscape surrounding a nursing home to give shape to the imagination and perceptions of the guests who lived there, trying to eliminate any element attributable to the physical and mental deprivation consumate with their years. Stella Maris is a structure for the elderly who are no longer self-sufficient that is situated between a strip of land separating the Adriatic Sea from the Venetian lagoon. The artist, after collecting a series of audio, written, and video interviews during her long stay at Stella Maris, picked up pieces of bark from the hospital park trees and transformed them into abstract portraits. The collected shapes are transformed into photographic silhouettes of the waters that are daily seen from the guests’ windows. Once the photographic silhouettes were made, she studied the tides and reaections of the lights in the lagoon’s landscape and installed the silhouettes in the water, photographing them again through a view camera. The various explorations and constructions of the pictures were filmed and displayed daily to guests in their rooms. In the second phase of the project, the artist, along with three residents of the structure, Giulio, Annamaria and Nerina, decided to build a map of their imaginations, letting them draw and cataloging a sign-atlas of their memories and their daily thoughts. Part of these drawings were transformed into vector images, which were engraved with laser cutting on stainless steel. The artist’s book, a compilation of stories, drawings, and photographs by the guests of the views from the nursing home are made on a special transparent paper, the same paper the residents used for drawings during the months of the artist’s presence in the hospital.

Stella Maris #1, #2, #3, c-prints, 150 x 100cm each, ed. of 5 plus 2AP each, 201 / The Stele of Stella Maris, Stainless Stele, unique, 201 / The Sea and the Bells, artist’s book, ed. of 25, 2017 / Stella Maris, a retrospective diary fanzine, 2018

STELLA MARIS #1, c-print, 150 x 100cm, ed. of 5 plus 2AP, 2017

“I am interested in the time within time, like the invisible bubbles which are space-time portals. I think about how we normally talk about old people: kitchens full of knick-knacks, colourful pot-holders, close-ups of hands marked by the years, voices trembling as they talk about the war. This is what I want to avoid: I would like to arrive at a pure, distilled version, which frees itself from one imaginary world to reach another.” 

Stella Maris, A retrospective diary, 2018


“Each of them is used to talking about their life in brief snippets, repeated once, or ten or twenty times. Marriage, work, dramas, illnesses. Like a mantra, the story of their life is a text to be repeated from memory. I ask whether there is a way to break this spell...”

“I come up with a new ritual: I give all of them sheets of tracing paper. Then, during our conversations, we begin to draw. Instead of telling me about their lives, I ask them to draw me some very specific things: the door of the house where they grew up; the headboard of their marital bed; the clothes they wore the first time they went out with their future spouse. Their struggles with drawing turn out to be an excellent tool:“no, the headboard wasn't like that!It was rounder, and shiny, but how can I show what the material was like with a pen?”
The limits of pen or pencil on paper open up some precise and authentic memories, and many of them start to work on their drawing so as to express themselves better. When they are unable to draw, they use the tracing paper to trace a photo or a picture from a book.”

Stella Maris, A retrospective diary, 2018

INSTALLATION VIEW, Pelagica, Milano | Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation, Venice

“I start scanning their drawings, numbering them and archiving them. I like them more and more, they all have something in common, but are also very different. Some seem like never-before-seen codes, others seem like children’s drawings, while others still are very precise.
I start to think that this new atlas which is taking shape is a linguistic and sensitive boundary between them and the world, bringing to mind the monumental steleson which the borders between two territories or the conquests of a war were carved. ..”

Stella Maris, A retrospective diary, 2018

Il diario di Giulio, c-print, 2017-2024

“The idea is to make these cut-outs emerge from the sea and to photograph them again with a view camera. It is a sort of magic act: inside the negative will be two different waters, two different times, incorporated in a single object. I would like these photos to become gifts for them, new Stella Marises which will guide them from the place where they find themselves.

Stella Maris, A retrospective diary, 2018

STELLA MARIS #2, c-print, 150 x 100cm, ed. of 5 plus 2AP, 2017 

STELLA MARIS #3, c-print, 150 x 100cm, ed. of 5 plus 2AP, 2017

During the day, little by little, everyone comes by to look; the lifeguard becomes my technical consultant, helping me attach the cut-outs; the old engineer on the first floor is my advisor for the stability of the cardboard, and some old men stay in the room all day watching me work and commenting when something goes wrong, trying to downplay the problems. The creation of these cut-outs has become a sort of collective work, a catalysing event.

Stella Maris, A retrospective diary, 2018

The Stele of Stella Maris (details), Stainless Stele, unique, 2017

“The residents watch from the windows of Stella Maris as if I were putting on a show for them. Many people want to come and watch; Silvia decides to bring them to the beach. Some of them have not been in months, others in years.
Some old ladies hold up the cut-outs so they do not fly away. Everyone has their favourite.  The shooting takes place at dawn in the lagoon.
It is all anyone talks about at Stella Maris.”

Stella Maris, A retrospective diary, 2018

The Stele of Stella Maris, Stainless Stele, unique, 2017

“Stella Maris is the expectation of something that will come, a simulation of a non-existent time, because it is the union of two different times.
One day the next year we decide that the exhibition will be reinstalled where it began, at Stella Maris, maybe in the winter, when the sun which beats down on the water in August almost seems like an illusion.”

STELLA MARIS, A retrospective diary, 2018

Nerina’s drawings, image scan, 2017

Sunday, c-print, 2017

The water becomes a regular presence for me, too. The waters of the lagoon were darker at first, but now shine under the August sun. The sea seems brighter, calmer, from the windows. Every so often I photograph the sea and the lagoon before and after an interview. The lagoon before I go in, the sea at the end, when their words are still running through my mind.

STELLA MARIS, A retrospective diary, 2018

Backstage, 2017

Untitled #1 (the Shell, 10.11.2018, 6p.m. - 12 p.m.),
silver gelatin print, 79x61cm, unique, 2018

photographic project in collaboration with Marco Maria Zanin
Stainless Stele produced and realized by Palladio SPA and Alfredo Tiso and Figli
in collaboration with Stella Maris, San Camillo Hospital, Venice