A life full of dreams between art, poverty and a “crazy” desire to make movies

Burano – He no longer lives here. He left this world eleven years ago and his sister goes to visit him every day, taking the kilometer long walk that separates her Burano house from the cemetery of Mazzorbo. Many steps separate Albertina Toselli from the spot in which “Bepi” rests − “Bepi Suà”, class 1920, that many buranelli (Burano residents) know and remember; or at least those over a certain age. Albertina has a hard time speaking of her brother Giuseppe without shedding a shy and discreet tear with which she lets out all of her nostalgia. This is the sentiment that visits her every time she sees, even if just with a quick glance, the explosion of colors that is their old house in Via al Gottolo.

Bepi al lavoro con una turista in posa. Foto per gentile concessione di Albertina Toselli, la riproduzione non è consentita.

Bepi at work with a posing tourist. PHOTO courtesy of Albertina Toselli, reproduction not allowed.

 

All houses in Burano are colored, but the one that used to be theirs, hidden behind the more crowded Via Galuppi, looks like no other one on the island. It is no coincidence that this facade – so original and full of psychedelic circles, triangles and squares – still nowadays appears in postcards and in many travelers’ photographs, visitors that couldn’t help taking a picture in front of the house with the author of such fantasy.

Up until a few years ago, taking a picture with “Bepi” of the colored house – a strange type, maybe a bit grumpy but still very amiable – was an honor. It actually wasn’t very difficult to do anyway: he was always there, with paintbrushes and colors decorating his house. There wasn’t a single day in which he wasn’t busy at work: he’d walk out from the door on the ground floor with all that was necessary and began to paint. He would brush blue over red, mix orange to yellow, and juxtapose green strips to purple and black checkered patterns. This way, every evening, his house had a different look, a new life and a new backdrop for all the tourists photos and memories.

 

Bepi Suà tinge la sua casa di un nuovo colore. Foto per gentile concessione di Albertina Toselli, ne è vietata la riproduzione.

Bepi Suà paints his house a new color. PHOTO courtesy of Albertina Toselli, reproduction not allowed.

Today the house has the colors it had in 1985, because after the death of “deo Bepi” – that everyone called (and still call) “Bepi Suà”, for his habit of staying outside in the sun in his constantly sweaty (“sudato”, “suà” in Venetian dialect) shirts – the walls have naturally slowly stripped the many layers of colors without his loving constant care. In 2005, after choosing among the many fantasies built up in the years, they have very slowly begun a long-lasting restoration of the facade.  So long lasting that, in Summer 2013, the residents of Burano listened to the long and fascinating story of “deo Bepi” for the first time.

Collage di fotografie per gentile concessione di Albertina Toselli. La riproduzione di questa immagine è vietata.

PHOTOS courtesy of Albertina Toselli, reproduction not allowed.

Immagine per gentile concessione di Albertina Toselli, ne è vietata la riproduzione.

PHOTO courtesy of Albertina Toselli, reproduction not allowed.

It is thanks to the research of the student Giada Carraro that Burano dedicated two whole days to the work and story of this self-made artist. It is this way that we found out that Giuseppe Toselli filled his house with recorders, televisions and film. He in fact was not only and art enthusiast but he was also a great fan of cinema. To better understand him and his work, we must take small ride on a time machine back to postwar period.

Albertina, his sister, tells us of the summer nights when Bepi used to hang a white sheet on the wall of the storehouse in front of his own house and, with a huge machine for the time, would project cartoons, hilarious episodes of Laurel and Hardy, and absurd “performances” of Ridolini the clown. It almost sounds like a scene from “Cinema Paradiso“.

So many children enjoyed themselves with the cinema under the sky of “deo Bepi”. He really really wanted to work as a film operator, but his license as a self-made operator only gave him access as a janitor at the nearby Cinema Favin. When the movie house closed, he began selling candy in downtown Burano, trying to forget the sadder moments of his own childhood: the hunger, the poverty, and the death of both parents when he and his sister (youngest of five) were only kids.

Albertina always was close and stayed close to her brother. She lives in the house today. In the living room, she still keeps the sofa where Bepi spent his last years.

“I cannot take it away – she says – I still can see him there”.