Praiano Never Ceases to Fascinate

What looms large in the horizon is the Tyrrhenian Sea

By Lois Conner

“In terms of idea, the artist is free even to surprise himself. Ideas are discovered by intuition.” Sol Lewitt, 1967

I am a photographer of contemporary landscapes. I have spent much of the last quarter of a century working in Asia, particularly China and Vietnam, but in October of 2011 and 2012, through the Happy and Bob Doran Artist-in-Residence grant from the Yale University Art Gallery, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to live in the house of Carol and Sol LeWitt in Praiano, on the Amalfi Coast.

Photo by Lois Conner


Perched many hundreds of steps up from the water, their home overlooks a garden and several layers of houses, but what looms large is the Tyrrhenian Sea. The house faces west, yet the sun trickles in the louvered doors demanding to be opened up in the early morning. Each evening, I had to force myself to close them, as the view, even in darkness, never ceased to fascinate. It is mesmerizing; constantly changing as the boats mark the water, the clouds appear then disappear, floating off to their next destination. The changing color of the light suggests a change in weather; visible from far off you can see it building its momentum. Each moment is more riveting than a cinematic experience.

Photo by Lois Conner


In my first weeks in Praiano, I collected the red and amber trumpet flowers that had dropped along the paths as I walked up and down the mountains. Bits and pieces of old discarded tiles from the olive groves where I photographed and strangely twisted pieces of wood and wire from the garden outside also became part of my still life material. I thought that comparing the scale of Sol LeWitt’s paintings with these small objects could complicate our conversation, as he is very much alive in these surroundings.

Living for these months in Praiano with his fresco paintings and his line drawings made me reconsider particular details in the landscape—jet trails, webs, nests, fences, stones, water drops, roads, walls, walkways, tiling, and mesh—as part of a organizing system that could be imposed on the landscape. His grids of line and sweeps of controlled color powerfully impose, suggest, and reverberate.

Photo by Lois Conner


These multiple exposures were made in different locations. Begun at my “studio” at the LeWitt house, his paintings, the surrounding mountains, and the powerful, unrelenting Tyrrhenian Sea were a constant inspiration. But I also visited Ravello, Amalfi, Vico Equense, Pompeii and Napoli.

Photo by Lois Conner


In Praiano I divided my time spending the mornings on my balcony studio and the afternoons in the landscape. I climbed the mountains behind the house, and wandered throughout the area, sampling the landscapes, cuisine and fine wine that punctuates this extraordinary world.

Often the land offered up its own naturally doubled self (as in the olive groves) or perhaps my eyes were opened by the experience of the place, and the power of the art, both the ancient and the modern. Seeing someone’s work constantly gives you a different sense of it, even when you think you have begun to understand it conceptually or aesthetically. There are other artists to whose work I’ve paid homage, but certainly none as directly as LeWitt’s.

Photo by Lois Conner

Lois Conner has taught photography for over 30 years, including a decade at the School of Art at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Other venues include Princeton University, New Jersey; Sarah Lawrence College, New York; Stanford University, California and the School of Visual Arts in New York. Currently she is teaching at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

Lois’s photographs have been exhibited internationally in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including a retrospective “Landscape as Culture” at the Sackler Gallery of Art (National Gallery) in Washington, D.C. In the fall of 2012, several of her large lotus triptychs were featured in the “Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios Retreats” exhibition, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Recent solo shows include the “Drawing the Land” in 2012 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China and “Beijing Building” in 2011 in London, England. She has been included in numerous shows at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, most recently in “Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography”.

The books “American Trees” and ‘Lotus’ will be published in 2015.

Photo by Lois Conner


Amalfi Coasting is a “pet project” of a community organization started in the town of Praiano in 2013. We developed this web site as a tool to invite people from all over the world to get to know our town, discover its "secrets" and embrace it not just as a great tourist destination but also as a community, with its people, its traditions and all of its offerings.