Daud Akhriev and Melissa Hefferlin

When Daud and I realized that Venice was essentially empty, he insisted that we move heaven and earth to get ourselves there again to paint this unique moment in history. The Cutter Family helped us with the paperwork, as we needed a ‘work’ reason to break the lockdown. Traveling there was not easy… extra forms to fill out in triplicate, multiple COVID tests and constantly-cancelled flights… but, it was well worth the trouble!

Venice in the pandemic was infinitely more poignant than we had anticipated. For the first half of our trip, we were frequently in the Piazza San Marco, alone! During my morning excursions, I could pass several bridges without seeing anyone, except the gondoliers shooting the breeze, because there were no tourists. Daud and I realized we had previously never seen the end of a street, the long view down an alley, or the scale of the piazzas; because they were usually filled with pulsing crowds. This trip was very different, we personally embraced Venice, we inhaled her essence and we want to share our experience with you!

Daud has long been an accomplished practitioner of plein air painting, and he spent all day, every day, on the streets, working from life in order to secure in his memory and by his hand the essence of the city. Daud said, “For me, Venice represents clarity and richness. The entire city’s architectural continuity is a clarity of style. The light emphasizes the ornamental facades, and additionally everything you see is reflected in the water in distortions which describe the buildings above and the motion of the water combined. I love the way the buildings are aged from centuries of salty air. I love the intimacy of this city! The absence of cars changes everything, the scale of the city and the narrow streets provide privacy. Turning a corner can open up a tiny square, a new canal, a different neighborhood. There are thousands of corners where one could find solitude or have a secret conversation.” Also suited to Daud is Venice’s straddle of the East and West cultures. A solidly European city which, by controlling trade on the seas, has adopted many aesthetics of Asia and the Muslim world. An apt description of his own aesthetic.

For years I resisted falling in love with Venice, thinking it a beautiful, overcrowded cliche. But after our ‘Venetian month’ I am now in full thrall. Being there with just the Venetians made this visit much more personal. Normally one moves in Venice like a cow in a herd of millions, shuffling along. This visit, when on my morning walks I would see one woman, or a pair of gondoliers, I share stories with the shopkeepers because we were not interrupted by tourists asking a thousand questions, Venice became about personal stories. I devoted myself to people watching, and to speaking with as many proprietors as I could. I began imagining relationships and histories for the strangers with whom I became familiar. I came to imagine Venice as a magical zone, where people found a way to be their best, their most honest and beautiful selves. I am from a very small town in Tennessee, and I loved envisioning female characters coming from secluded places to Venice for the first time, and what would the reactions and adventures of these women be? I recorded these imaginings in my pen and ink drawings, as inspiration for future paintings and prints. – Melissa Hefferlin

Here is a link to Melissa’s Blog Post

We would love to hear your thoughts on this beautiful new collection of work by Daud and Melissa!
Cutter & Cutter Fine Art
25 King Street
St. Augustine, FL 32084
“Downtown on the Plaza”