A Fellowship in Rome

It’s not uncommon for recipients of the Rome Prize to travel to the ancient city with a stated purpose, only to be lured astray. Surrounded by layers of architecture, art, and culture dating back more than two millennia, any intellectually curious person would be hard-pressed to stay the course. But a group of the 2004-05 American Academy in Rome fellows—architect John Hartmann, painter Jackie Saccoccio, and sculptor Lucky DeBellevue—were also diverted by one another.

Hartmann, who intended to explore ways of addressing social needs in new housing construction, found himself developing a common interest in Baroque masterworks by Borromini, Pietro de Cortona, and Annibale Carracci with the other fellows through studio visits and explorations of Rome. Instead of tackling real-world issues, Hartmann ended up focusing on painting “imagined and observed networks of pathways”—evocations of city grids and architectural circulation patterns—and began to see his compositions as flat surfaces rather than representations of volumes. Although the paintings would seem to share little with DeBellevue’s sculptures made from mass-produced materials or Saccoccio’s abstractions of natural matter and geology, the dialogue also had an effect on the others: DeBellevue increasingly looked for influences beyond the materials of American industry, and Saccoccio shifted her focus from natural formations to facades.

“In Rome our minds were permitted to wander and our feet followed—journeys that always led to some incredible treasure in the history of art and architecture,” Hartmann says. “Jackie and Lucky showed me two additional ways to see every piece.”

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