Sicilian Folk Art

Carmelo Rizza


Carmelo’s oil paintings comprise a unique collection of Italian folk scenes, ranging from labor-intensive practices like farming, to family pastimes like card playing. Traditions specific to Floridia, his hometown, like the L’ascenzione (“The Ascension”) festival - where men on horses race through the main road of Floridia to imitate relaying the news of Easter, that Jesus has risen - are also part of the collection.

While all of Carmelo’s works are noteworthy as stand-alone pieces, they are best appreciated when viewed together, as a collection. Through a series of 25 oil on canvas paintings, most painted between 1960 and 2009, Rizza captured everyday life around him. Through his art, we get a glance of what the Sicilian culture and lifestyle was like between the 1960s and early 21st century - the period during which he painted. Rizza painted over 400 paintings, selling little over 300. Andreà holds currently 25 paintings while his grandmother holds the remainder.

When viewing Rizza's paintings one might assume they were painted during the pre-industrial era, because modern machinery and automobiles, for example, are not found in his depictions. Instead, we see Sicilians using what might be described as “dated” tools, like a hand-held hoe to unearth potatoes, or oil lamps lining streets and a town’s piazza (town square). At the time Carmelo was painting, this is what he saw used around him; such subtleties makes Carmelo’s collection even more treasured.


Traditional labour