Cat Licitra Ponti was born into one of Italy’s most important artistic families. The great-granddaughter of Gio Ponti – a designer, architect, artist, furniture designer and so much more – was immersed in art and design from day one. And continues the family legacy. As an artist and designer herself, she spent much of lockdown upcycling, creating gorgeous art pillows that were presented at the Grand Chalet of Carla Milesi de Gresy. She has also been working with artists Cristina O’Hanlon and Davide Bellocchio, helping them to release their art into the world. As an artist, designer and a true source of artspiration, we spoke to Cat about her upbringing, design and her hopes for the future.
What was it like growing up in a family with a long history of design?
I was born in Via Randaccio in Milan, in the first villa that my great-grandfather Gio Ponti built for our family in the 1920s, in a classic style with 4 pinnacles on the facade. It was on the top floor, above where my grandmother Lisa Licitra Ponti lived.
I crawled on the alternating black and white tiles designed by Ponti. I slept in a bed he designed, I studied on his desk, and I had breakfast with his glasses and colorful plates, which made up a very cheerful table. On the walls there were works by Ponti himself, as well as Fausto Melotti, Fontana, Agnetti, Ettore Sottsass, Campigli, Mollino, Fornasetti and Merz … Artists all connected and chosen by Ponti to furnish and enrich the lives and homes of his friends and customers scattered around the world. Everywhere there were sheets, drawings, notes and writings on art. And there was also Domus magazine, directed by my grandmother Lisa Ponti, and her drawings.
My childhood was a continuous coming and going of critics, gallery owners, artists, museum directors, united by the work and admiration of Ponti. In fact, I think the first word I said was Ponti, instead of Mom.
This is the reality that I have known, certainly no weight, but above all a great harmony, between work, art and everyday life. For me this is the most important teaching of living at Ponti: creativity is what helps you to live. If I close my eyes, what do I see? The beauty in which I was born … I am lucky! This is the power of art: to ride, the boundary between reality and dream.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My flame now is Jean Cocteau, Gio Ponti and Harry Potter! Magic always helps 😉 A wonderland rocket through Greco-Roman aesthetics with a dash of fantasy and colors.
You have been upcycling during quarantine, why is sustainability important to you?
For the planet, of course. There are too many objects and goods in the world. Let’s start using what we already have. I like to confuse and mix different mediums, from fragments of bedsheets, napkins and pillows!
You’re working as a catalyst with Cristina O’Hanlon and Davide Bellocchio, what is that relationship like?
Being a catalyst – I create my own magic potions in my cauldron… the ingredients are artists, designers, museums, galleries, collectors, press and with a click of my wand… Voila!
Cristina’s art is inspired by yonic shapes which hold space for the feminine. Space is used as a placeholder for potential, possibility and stillness. She is currently exploring porcelain and stoneware ceramics both alone and on canvas. She feels her energy and creative spirit, which has transformed since giving birth to her daughter, Gigi.
In the vessel EGG01, her creations are an expression of all the beautiful, oh-so-loved babies – babies held in arms on earth and in hearts in heaven. These pieces are a tribute to the intergenerational community of women, the ongoing lineage of life-givers, who have created us all.
Davide Bellocchio, his photographs straddle truth and fiction. The theatricality of his images suggest rather than elucidate a full narrative. His brand of storytelling results in different directions but never providing a definite map. His images are the testimony of an attempt to bridge and understand the diversity between the masculine and the feminine.
Who are your design heroes?
Of course my great-grandfather Gio Ponti.
What advice would you give to young women wanting to make a career in art and design?
It’s not a career, it’s a passion!
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
I would love to be involved in the art creations at Burning Man, I love the experience in the desert and creating something that is temporary and builds a community. I would also love to teleport myself to Ubud, Bali and be with my friend Elora Hardy, founder of Ibuku, exploring bamboo techniques in building infrastructures and furniture. At the same time fully indulging in food and possibly learning permaculture 🙂 And last, but not the least, I’d love to conquer the world with my Art Pillows.
Interview by Lizzy Vartanian