Artist Valerie Corradetti is drawn to modernist design because of its strong, undiluted point of view. "I respond to things that are thoughtful," she says. "I spend time thinking about things that are often unnoticed ... exploring the minutiae of design and everyday objects."
Corradetti, who will receive her master of fine arts degree from the University of New Orleans in 2014, scrutinized the aesthetics of her Mid-Century modern home before committing to live there.
"When we originally looked at the house, I was trying to figure out whether [the previous owner] had left enough of what was original so that it could ... make sense again," she says of her 1951 house in Lake Vista. "After years of wear and tear and a renovation, it was hard to see what was going on. But the soul of the house still exists."
As an artist, Corradetti related to the house's impressive provenance. Its architect, New Orleans native Albert Ledner, apprenticed under Frank Lloyd Wright and is internationally known for modernist buildings he designed in both New York City and New Orleans. (Ledner's mother, Beulah, is credited with creating the first doberge cake in New Orleans.) Corradetti has met Ledner, who is now in his 80s. She has the blueprints for the house and hopes to restore its original architecture (intended to maximize cross breezes and airflow) and materials. The house is the oldest example of Ledner's residential architecture in New Orleans.
"I think a lot about Bauhaus, the mother ship of modern design, and there's a link between that and Frank Lloyd Wright," Corradetti says. "Ledner studied with Frank Lloyd Wright. The overarching themes are really nice."
Raised in rural New Jersey, Corradetti grew up with wide open spaces and sweeping landscapes. She connected with the house's rustic wood surfaces, light that pours in from clerestory windows and the way the structure blends indoor and outdoor environments.
"My experience growing up was very much about being surrounded by nature," she says. "My work is rooted in naturalism, and this house makes use of the outside."
Corradetti's path as an artist began in early childhood. Her maternal grandfather created surreal drawings meant to trick the eye, which Corradetti observed and mimicked. Today, the way an image can morph from one perception to another is a recurrent theme in her work. Her latest pieces, some of which can be viewed at Antenna Gallery as part of their ongoing Flat File Project, are created using pencil on vellum.
Corradetti finds inspiration in the full spectrum of the arts: dance, music, photography, sculpture, film, fashion and interior design, as well as in the world around her. Her laid-back fashion sense derives its ease from American genres: menswear, Western-inspired denim and leather and surfer/beach looks (she grew up surfing on the Jersey shore). It's spiced with a dash of Italian actress Monica Vitti as she appeared in Michelangelo Antonioni's 1960 film, L'Avventura.
"The fashion in that film is something I really love," Corradetti says.
Menswear is making a comeback in women's fashion this fall, and Corradetti's favorite pieces include a pair of wingtip shoes she purchased from Royal Elastics and a pair of Cobra Rock South Highland boots, a hybrid of cowboy, riding and desert boots. For dressier occasions, she's a fan of designer Mara Hoffman's artsy prints.
"I like to get dressed up and go out, but I also really enjoy the comforts of home," she says.
For interior decorating, she combines Mid-Century finds with her own art and treasures from websites including 1stdibs.com, heathceramics.com, iacolimcallister.com, ragoarts.com (a New Jersey auction house specializing in 20th-century furniture, jewelry and housewares) and Sterling Provision, an eclectic secondhand store in the French Quarter.
When asked whose work would be part of the perfect art collection, she names iconic modern and contemporary artists Sol LeWitt, John Wesley, Masao Yamamoto, Eileen Quinlan and Carlo Mollino, but follows with local artists.
"Laura Gipson, Rachel Jones, Monica Zeringue and Dan Rule all make fantastic work," she says. The pop art paintings of UNO professor Jim Richard also have been a powerful influence.
"I live in the world of ideas," says Corradetti, who recently began altering pieces of vintage jewelry. "When you live in the world of ideas, you need to be open to all kinds of things. I find value in all sorts of designs — in Creole cottages and shotguns, in poetry and modern dance, in noticing the little things we normally pass by."