|Photo via Ravenna24oro.it|
What were all of these people celebrating in the streets of Ravenna, Italy on October 8th. A spectacular tomato harvest? A strategic soccer win? The end of Lent? Actually, it was none of the above.
It was art – contemporary mosaic art – that had thousands swarming in and out of museums, libraries, monuments, studios, galleries and retail shops on Notte d’Oro – the opening night of RavennaMosaico 2011. Several friends referred to it as the “Mosaic Moshpit.”
RavennaMosaico is an extraordinary, biennial event organized by the International Association of Contemporary Mosaicists (AIMC) and the Comune di Ravenna. This delightful town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its Byzantine mosaic treasures, is claiming the right to be seen as the global nexus for contemporary mosaics – and they are doing a great job of it.
There are exhibits, demonstrations, symposiums and lectures on the “state of the art” throughout the city between now and November 20th. While this is only the second time for the festival, it has already garnered international art press notice.
Photo via RavennaMosaico
Just last week, the New York Times and International Herald Tribune carried a review/overview of RavennaMosaico by noted Italian arts and culture commentator Roderick Conway Morris; “An Ancient Craft Gets a Bigger World Stage.” (links below)
On the same day, the Times also referenced a mosaic by Lee Krasner in a review of a new exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. We are seeing a growing momentum for contemporary mosaics as an art form that is very exciting.
Back to the night in question . . . Notte d’Oro was glorious. It was boisterous. It was inspirational. It was claustrophobic. And we were there – on the third leg of the Mosaic Masterpieces Tour. While we saw much, and missed a great deal, too, in this post, we’ll hit on four highlights from our time in Ravenna.
Immersion by CaCO3 at The Arian Baptistry
We are going to be up front and say we are partial to the work of CaCO3, the mosaic triumverate comprised of Pavlos Mavromatidis, Aniko Ferreira da Silva and Guiseppe Donnaloia. The group was selected as one of the eight featured artists in our 2011 Exhibition in Print by Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings. We were excited to see what they had created as the solo installation for the Arian Baptistry, one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ravenna. We were not disappointed.
It’s a towel. A marble towel hanging from an aluminum towel rod.
A little history about the Arian Baptistry: Theodoric the Great commissioned this building in the late 5th Century for the Arians. Now, the Arians had a very different take on the concept of Christ than did the Catholics of Justinian who eventually wrested Ravenna away from Theodoric. Arians believed the son was not fully God or part of the Holy Trinity. They saw him as more human than divine. Which is what makes the mosaic in this baptistry so special. This figure of Christ is pale, almost timid. His genitalia beneath the water is exposed for all to see. The word “vulnerable” comes to mind immediately.
This is the aspect of the mosaic – Jesus, nude, immersed to the waist in the River Jordan – that CaCO3 chose to focus on in designing for this splendid site. From the Artists’ Statement:
We (CaCO3) wanted to insert an element into the site which by its nature would interact with the building in two ways; First, materially through the use of mosaic and second, conceptually through a clear connection between our new element and the narrative and purpose of the baptistry and its ancient mosaics.
Our idea was to place inside the baptistry a towel hanging on a metal structure ready to receive the man Jesus – not so very different than any who was in this building to be baptized – as he emerged from the River Jordan in need of warmth and covering. We imagined a sheet of white linen whose woof is made apparent through the use of small, individual tesserae of white limestone (CaCO3).
Simple. Elegant. Beautiful. Reverant of the spirit, faith and history of the place in which it resides. For us, Immersion was one of those art moments where we looked at what is in front of us, thought “Of course” and were silenced with the perfection of it. So satisfying. Immersion is the only RavennaMosaico installation to be found in a UNESCO World Heritage site. We are certain that the Superintendency for Architectural Heritage and Landscape of Ravenna, who gave permission for CaCO3 to execute the project, must be very pleased with the results.
After Notte de Oro, we were fortunate enough to arrange for a private viewing of Immersion and have CaCO3 on hand to talk about the piece, their inspiration and how they work together. Later, we repaired to a local bar where beer proved to be the perfect antidote to language barriers.
Bibliomosaico: Artistic Books in Mosaic Tiles
Sprinkled throughout the clean, well lit shop were small works created by mosaic artists on the theme of books. Notes from the catalogue:
The BIBLIOMOSAICO exhibition was conceived by Rosetta Berardi in 2009 with the intention of stimulating thought on the form of the book, on the representation of a “book object” which is to be looked at and not read, a book which is not a book but a “book object”, a book which although having lost its content of words has obtained its specific conceptual meaning of an open work. It is not a book which becomes a work of art but a work of art that becomes or recalls a book.
Some of the pieces here were mini-masterworks that clearly referred to the book as object. Examples included the mosaics by Verdiano Marzi (above), Toyoharu Kii and Atsuo Suzumura (below). Like visual flypaper, these mosaics pulled us in for long, lingering studies.
Storria di una Zucchina, 2009 Silvia Naddeo
Photos courtesy George Fishman
Raniero Bittante’s Bubble Gum Italia was composed of three copies of the Italian constitution encrusted with red, white and green smalti adhered with used wads of the stuff accompanied by a video of Italians blowing bubbles.
Tribute to Ilana Shafir at Classense Library
Israeli artist Ilana Shafir is a contemporary mosaic legend. We covered this show, the only solo exhibit at RavennaMosaico 2011, in a MAN post this past September.
Collection of Laura Gavioli
It was nothing short of thrilling to be at the opening of the exhibit to see all of the mosaics – and the artist – in person.
Like the star that she is, Shafir was the center of all on Notte d’Oro, attracting fond wishes and heartfelt gratitude from everyone. Including us.
BRAVO! to AIMC and the Comune di Ravenna for wonderful event. And to the hundreds of artists who contributed the time, the energy and the art that so enriched and inspired all of us – Grazie. Mille grazie.
Enjoy – Nancie
Our sincere thanks to all who contributed photographs to this post. Where not otherwise noted, photos are by the author.
Ravenna Mosaico 2011 website
“An Ancient Craft Gets a Bigger World Stage” New York Times, October 27, 2011
“Hewn, Spun, Joined, Sandwiched, Cemented” A review of Crafting Modernism at the Museum of Art and Design New York Times October 27, 2011
Roderick Conway Morris website
MAR, The Ravenna City Museum website
Helen Bodycomb website
Henry-Noel Aubry website
Julian Modica website
Toyoharu Kii here
Silvia Naddeo website
Ranier Bittante here
Takako Hirai photos
Sonya Louro do Rego website
Luca Barberini website
Previous MAN Posts about the ARTISTS
Ilana Shafir Honored with Solo Exhibition At Ravenna Mosaico 2011 here
Verdiano Marzi: A European Master Teaches in the US here
Luca Barberini: Bernice Steinbaum’s Exhibition in Print Best in Show here
CaCO3: Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings Exhibition in Print here
NOTE: This article first appeared on MAN in 2011. The exhibit is closed
On November 1st and 2nd, Mexico celebrates La Dia de Los Muertos – The Day of the Dead – a time when families exuberantly celebrate relatives and loved ones who have passed away. Vibrantly colored temporary alters are erected in living rooms, smiling sugar skulls leer from shop windows and bouquets of marigolds festoon grave sites where groups gather to picnic and remember.
The Mexican culture also embraces the Hispanic tradition of milagros, small, metal or wax religious charms that are often attached to statues of saints as offerings or carried in a pocket for good luck. The shape of a milagro refers to what divine assistance is requested for; body parts relate to health issues – a silver plane is likely a request for a safe journey. Once purchased, each small figure becomes instantly imbued with a very personal story.
Currently on view at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center in Dallas, Texas is the exhibit Tres Milagros featuring work inspired by these amulets by artists April Begay, Rebecca Collins and Katrina Doran. The works here tell many stories.
The works are a study of symbolic imagery, an inquiry into the meanings made of things, and an honoring of a creative cultural heritage where art and prayer meet.
12.5″ x 10″ x 4.5″ Internal organs milagro, glass beads, carpet tacks, 24K gold glass
Photo Katrina Doran
Noli me tangere or “You can not touch me” is what Christ said to Mary Magdalene after he rose from the dead, his body no longer in the cave where they had placed him to rest.
While preparing for this show, I fell ill with internal organ issues that resulted in the loss of quite a lot of blood. At the same time, a favorite cousin was diagnosed with stage 4 uterine cancer and an uncle was having trouble with his appendix. My cousin’s faith in Jesus is strong and she completely trusted that he would heal her. This impressed me very much.
My version of faith is to wrap myself in love, to surrender to something that cannot be held or touched and to trust that all will be well. The tacks represent my need to protect myself when the loss of blood made me feel so incredibly vulnerable. When at my worst, I imagined myself sitting in a heart-shaped cave like this one where nothing could touch me. In there I would be safe and well.
By the opening of the show, all my test results came back clear; my cousin continues to have good test results and my uncle’s doctors can not find anything wrong with him. I find this mysterious.
Rebecca Collins tells her stories quite literally on the face of her mosaics. She employs a technique that enables the viewer to see selected printed words or phrases and her water color paintings and drawings through the multi-colored stained glass she applies on top. Collins tells us that the inspiration for Heart Milagro came from her concern for a much-loved friend.
When we first approached the Tres Milagros project, I knew I wanted to do a heart milagro that would be a prayer for a very dear friend of mine who battles depression and has led a very secluded, solitary life. I initially thought I wanted to make something that would help to open up her heart and then I realized that it was my own heart that needed to open so that I could be a better, more accepting friend.
The thought of creating a mosaic that would speak to all of this was too big in my brain and so I postponed doing the heart milagro. Finally, with just a few weeks left before the exhibit opening, out of the blue new friend gave me a heart milagro. That symmetry – a new friend helping me with a project that was a prayer for one of my oldest fiends – inspired me to begin this piece.
We applaud Apryl Begay’s Quetzacoatl – Dreaming of Legs for its incorporation of a Mesoamerican deity (also called The Feathered Serpent) into a child-sized, quintessentially Catholic milagro. The imagery is clear and striking and captures much of the Mexican spirit for millennia. Begay says:
As an anthropology major, I have always been interested in symbols and their history. Quetzalcoatl is believed to bridge the space between this physical world and the spiritual world. As I continue down a path of self discovery it becomes more apparent to me that I can attain a quality of peace and joy in this life that can only be compared to heaven. To me, this is the path of the Feathered Serpent, anything can happen here, nothing is outside of the realm of possibilities. A serpent can grow feathers, a serpent can grow legs.
Quetzalcoatl – Dreaming of Legs began as a dream. I woke up one morning, went to my studio and grabbed the porcelain leg I had bought when I heard that our proposal for Tres Milagros had been accepted. I drew the Feathered Serpent on the leg and began nipping tile. I love it when a piece seems to finish itself, as if it is pushing its way into the world through my hands.
We suggest you see Tres Milagros at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center in Dallas, Texas before it closes on November 18th. We are certain that you’ll come away with stories of your own.
Enjoy – Nancie
PS Happy Halloween!
More of What We Loved in Rome (and Close Environs)
Mimmo Paladino at the Ara Pacis
Before we begin to rhapsodize on this masterpiece of a contemporary mosaic designed by Mimmo Paladino and fabricated by Constantino Buccoleri in 2000, we want to say a little something about a major positive factor in the Mosaic Masterpieces Tour — the company we kept.
In the back row we have: Steve Greer and Lea Holland (Memphis), Ana Foncerrada (Mexico), Marian Shapiro (Australia), Jo Braun (Seattle), Sandra Foncerrada (mother of Ana, Mexico), and Tom Braun (husband of Jo, Seattle). In the front row you will find: Michael Welch (Boston), Lesley Miller (Australia), Allan Punton (UK) and our guide Julie Richey. Bronwyn Fife of Australia missed this photo opp, but was a contributing member of our Merry Mosaic Band.
No matter how wonderful the sites or how fabulous the food, a grand tour can derail quickly if there are unhappy campers on the journey with you. These folks were great. Individually, they brought a wealth of knowledge and curiosity; collectively, their bonhomieand sense of adventure made every day a joy.
Going to see this mosaic felt like a pilgrimage as we have loved it since we first discovered it online. The work is an extraordinary compilation of symbols applied to convex and concave surfaces that, according to Paladino, “reflect the zenithal light.”
After spending so much time immersed in the symbolism of early Christianity earlier in the week, there was much discussion about Paladino’s use of symbols here. While some are easy to discern (the dove, the raven, the cup, the fish, etc) others are less easy to decipher. Even more challenging were the questions of why these images were included here. Unfortunately, the only good text explaining Palladino’s design are in a 100 Euro book for sale in the museum’s book shop. A staffer explained that the artist is very particular about how his work is represented.
What, we wondered, will viewers 500 years from now make of these symbols? How will they be interpreted within the context of what those in the future believe is life is like for us today?
But, wait! What’s wrong with this picture? Dust bunnies! Yes, there were genuine dust bunnies clinging to many of the surfaces of the mosaic. Unacceptable. We suggested a Swiffer to the museum staffer on the way out.
A Walk in the Park to Fall In Love With Bernini
One of our most pleasant memories was the walk from the Piazza del Popolo through the Pincio Gardens on our way to the Galleria Borghese. The park was filled with fountains and follies and the only other people there were Romans strolling in the warm October air.
Well, maybe the air was a little more than “warm.” This cane had the right idea.
At the Galleria Borghese we fell in love. With Bernini.
|Apollo and Daphne 1625 via|
Apollo and Daphne took our breath away. There were more extraordinary sculptures by Bernini, but this one was captivating. We learned that Bernini had planned it to be placed in a particular room at ground level so that the viewer, upon entering the room, would see the gods as human-sized. The initial view was of the rear of the statue, so one would only see the backs of the two figures. It was only as one began to walk around the work that the struggle between Apollo and Daphne became evident. Unbelievable. Like Michelangelo’s Pieta, sublime. If you are in Rome, plan two hours at the Galleria Borghese. It is simply a must.
St. Paul Outside the Walls – San Paolo Fuori le Mura
Founded by Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century, this basilica is the burial site for the Apostle Paul. We adored it for the sense of airiness and peace that pervaded the place.
Unique at St. Paul’s were the beautiful Venetian mosaics on the exterior of the building and in the apse. Installed in the 13th century, the design of these mosaics reflect the aesthetics of Venetian Renaissance artists. People and objects are softer. The light is richer. The landscapes more idealized. Think Tintoretto or Titian. We were also reminded of Maxfield Parish.
We Meet the Devil In The Tarot Garden – Il Giardino dei Tarrochi
Thursday was “Private Bus Day” so, after St. Paul’s, we began the two-hour drive (with custom sound track provided by Richey) to the picture-perfect Italian hill town of Capalbio. Niki de Saint Phalle’s famous Tarot Garden is nearby. But first, an extravagant lunch of papadarelle al cinghiale – pasta with boar sauce – at a delightful restaurant Richey had arranged to have open just for us. We ate like kings. Outside the restaurant was one of de Saint. Phalle’s famous Nanas. After several bottles of local wine, we were inspired.
|Marian Shapiro and moi inspired by St. Phalle (and perhaps a little vino)|
Soon, it was everybody back in the bus and 10 minutes later we were in another world . . .
Much has been written about the celebrated artist Niki de Saint. Phalle. And nothing can quite prepare one for the experienced of being truly immersedin her world. Every pathway takes one to a new vision – surreal, unique and passionate. We’ll provide links to more information below, but one of the facts that surprised us the most is that it took 20 years to build out the site to the point where it was opened to the public in 1996.
Ugo, the postman, started by helping make the stone pathways, and then he worked on the metal mesh. Later he asked if he could try putting on the mirror mosaics onto the sculptures. He became a poet of mirrors. He’s always afraid that there will be no more work for him here. I promised him that there will always be something new for him to do and if needed I’d build the great wall of China around the whole garden and whole generations would be required to finish it.
Niki’s Tarot Garden is beginning to suffer from the “ravages of time.” After 20 – 40 years, the bonds between tesserae and substrate are beginning to weaken. After years of input from industrial chemists and trying a number of products and methods, there appears to be no good way to repair the damage. Celletti told us that his main concern now is simply maintaining the status quo.
Next Up: Ravenna and Venice. We hope you are enjoying the trip!
Enjoy – Nancie
What We Loved In Rome
“Allora!” You hear that constantly in Italy. It can mean “Let’s see . . .” or “Well . . . ” or “Hokay . . .” It acts as a sort of filler in conversations and we loved the sound of it. Try it with me now and roll that “r” . . . Allorrrrrrrrra!
Birthday At St. Peter’s On our first morning in Rome, Mosaic Masterpieces guide (and good friend) Julie Richey rousted us out of bed. “It’s your birthday! Get up! Put on your walking shoes!” We followed instructions and 15 minutes later found ourselves here.
|Photo via Wikipedia|
|Photo via Wikipedia|
Food, Glorious Food!
Richey did Roman cuisine proud in steering us to restaurants that offered wonderful bites of La Dolce Vita including the fabled “Alfredo’s.” The phrase heard most often within the group was, “We shan’t starve.” It’s a good thing the airlines only weighed our luggage.
Fabbrica di San Pietro – The Vatican Micro Mosaic Studio
Dr. diBuono was generous with his time and expertise answering every question, explaining and pulling out drawers filled with ancient smalti. Today, the majority of the Studio’s work is split between commissions, creating papal gifts for visiting dignitaries (one artisan pulled out a series of photos for us – “This, Bush Junior. This, Bush Senior. This, Clinton”) and restoring the mosaics of St. Peter’s including this reproduction of Raphael’s Transfiguration .
In the photo below, you can see some of the Studio’s most recent restoration work in the bright area beneath the tondo.
After our time with Dr. diBuono, we explored more of the Vatican’s mosaics, including these pretty putti who grace the upper level of the rotunda.
A Basilica on Top of a Basilica on Top of a Temple on Top of a Spring: San Clemente
|Lea Holland refilling her water bottle in the Courtyard of San Clemente|
down a set of stairs to a 4th century basilica . . .
down a sort of ramp to a 1st century Temple of Mithras . . .
|Photos via basilicasanclemente.com|
that was founded at the site of a spring that still runs today. We cupped our hands and drank deeply. The water was sweet. The air was dense.
Early Christian Symbolism in Neon
We are excited to announce that Peruvian-born artist Maylee Christie’s “Orchid” recently sold for £44,000 (approx. $70,000 US) at Sotheby’s Auction House in London.
Christie studied Graphic Design at La Plata’s Academy of fine Arts in Argentina and became a successful illustrator and writer of children’s books while living in Madrid, Spain. After she moved to the UK in 1999, Christie studied at the Mosaics Art School in Ravenna, Italy and, subsequently, the Orsoni Foundry in Venice. Christie went on to study Sculpture at Winchester School of Art and glass casting at the Liquid Glass Center.
Maylee Christie was a featured artist in Mosaic Art Now’s 2009 Gallery (“Premonitions” pg 40). When she sent us photos of her latest mosaic, “Ramblings”, we were once again taken by the detailed beauty of her work. Editor Bill Buckingham says, “Her mosaic is like an exquisitely intricate textile. It’s not about the whole piece, it’s about the details that make up the whole. You discover a singular ‘something’ each time you look at it. And yet, there is a complete ‘wholeness’ to it in the feelings it evokes.”
“Her work is very tight; no interstices here. You can see the influence of her work with Marco Bravura. Her colors are gorgeous and the palette works.
“I can’t imagine how someone thinks in detail like this. It’s not how I see the world at all. Ramblings gives me a new vantage point on the world that makes my life all the richer for it. For me, that is one of the great joys of art.”
Do we need to remind you to “click to enlarge?”
Our most heartfelt and enthusiastic congratulations to Ms. Christie. Brava!
Enjoy – Nancie