Artists in Residence – Villa Lena, Tuscany

An home, a laboratory, a community.

Villa Lena is not just a dreamy holiday escape. The unique hotel concept developed by Lena Evstafieva, Jérôme Hadey and Lionel Bensemoun fuses design, ecology, wellness, art and craft within a spectacular Reinassance-inspired setting. Part of Villa Lena estate, the Villa Lena Foundation is a not for profit organisation that hosts every two months artists residencies, promoting a unique creative exchange between the participants and the hotel guests. Surrounded by the peaceful and relaxed atmosphere of the countryside, cuddled by the roughly beautiful landscapes, the artists are greatly inspired by nature and the life at the Villa. From April to May 2016, Villa Lena Foundation‘s residents were Brigit Ryan, Emma Montague, Lauren Matthews, Martin Rahin, Michiko Erkola, Richard Lockett, Sophia Moreno-Bunge, Taiye Selasi and Veikka Erkola. During our visit, we took part to the Open Studios, and had the chance to meet some of the artists to better understand how their stay at Villa Lena influenced their creative approach.

The Australian sculptor Brigit Ryan reacted to the new environment by starting to integrate rural elements in her sculptures. A fence, essentially Italian in its shape as Brigit described it, became an abstract piece, barbed wire and hooks suggested the sinuous movement of plaster snakes, unfinished sculptures remind of horse’s hoofs, stones and industrial elements are seen as constant sources of inspiration. By being in contact with children, Brigit rediscovered a certain naivité that brought her back to drawing and painting. The same feeling was shared by Danish-Australian designer Emma Montague, who, as a right handed person, decided to sketch with her left hand, to achieve more genuine and simple figures. Following a more contemplative approach, Emma explored the nature of Tuscan countryside and the history of the little abandoned town close to Villa Lena, eventually turning fragmented folklore into artistic material. She collected acorns lives, marble off-cuts, cast architectural textures and wild grass flowers throughout her wanderings in the estate, which she plans to cast in gold and embellish with precious stones, creating beautiful elvish-inspired spectacle frames, jewelry and tableware. Even if Los-Angeles based florist Sophia Moreno-Bunge is used to deal with all sort of plants and organic elements, at Villa Lena she discovered new species of flowers and countryside shrubs that don’t grow in California, which gave to her arrangements a rustic, wabi-sabi-inspired look.

The ancestral appeal of the place and its rather unpredictable climate infused new turbulent passion into the works of French musician and painter Martin Rahin, who transposed to canvas the strength of the winds, rain storms and burning sunbeams, while rediscovering a deep fascination with bucolic life and Greek mythology, which added softer nouances to his artistic production. The buzzling lightness and playful vibes of Villa Lena also affected Richard Lockett‘s paintings and installations, giving a burst of pop color to his usually monochromatic geometrical projections and abstract landscapes. American poet and illustrator Lauren Matthews focused on individuals and community situations, unveiling the ritualistic beauty hidden in ordinary moments. 

Opened yearly from April till November, the Villa Lena Foundation artist residency program is now accepting applications for the 2017 season.


  • Artists in Residence – Villa Lena, Tuscany

    Article by
    Cecilia Musmeci



    Villa Lena
    Strada Comunale di Toiano, 42, Toiano, Palaia PI, Italy 
    1 April – 30 November 2016. Applications are available for their 2017 residency program online.

    Special Thanks

    Villa Lena
    Purple Pr