Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Carciofi, Espresso and More

We just returned from a whirlwind visit to Italy. Starting in Rome, then a week in a glorious apartment in Lucca with friends, and finally a week touring the east and southeast of Sicily. 

My words can't sufficiently express the sensual experiences of  a country where personal relationships are rich with melodic conversation, passionate food and interpersonal connections. It comes across in the food, aesthetics, interactions and history. Italy, and particularly Sicily, contains the roots of western civilization with layers of time existing archeologically and metaphorically just beneath the surface of everything. 

As an artist, the depth of traditional themes found in every Duomo, museum and public space were universally about religious iconography and begged the question about what contemporary art could look like in the shadow of such strong history. This was answered with our visit Rome's Galleria d'Arte Moderna. Their curation of works by Italian and international artists was exceptional with many powerful juxtapostions of classical and contemporary artworks.

There is so much to absorb and I look forward to this summer when I'll be exploring more on the subject of western civilization's expression from the Etruscans to the present. 

Here are is a small selection of images... in no particular order...

It is artichoke season! A particular favorite is a fried version found in a restaurant
in the Jewish Quarter near Trastevere in Rome.

Light and marble mosaic floors in one of many of the Duomos we visited.

The ruins of the Roman Theatre in Catania. Built in late antiquity, around 300 B.C.
the theatre was rebuilt on an older Greek theatre from the 500 B.C.
Today it lives in the midst of an urban neighborhood.

Entrance gate to the Estruscan town of Volterra. The Estruscans here date back to 700 B.C.E.
It's tough to wrap your head around that timeframe.

Travelling through the towns becomes a study in Duomos.
Most have them and they are all devotional masterpieces. This is the Cathedral in Lucca.

Not all Italian expressions are large. 

Whether a fan of classical sculpture or not, it is breathtaking to see the
sensitive works at the Museo Nationale delle Bargello in Florence.

North of Mt Etna, near the hilltown of San Domenica della Vittorio.
We were on our way to visit Wayne's family's roots. 

Carciofi (artichokes) according to Wayne.

The chef at work in our Lucca kitchen.

The fish market in Siracusa with colorful characters who sing and yell to attract your
attention to their stands. Here are fragments of a swordfish.

The silver ribbon-like fish are called Spatola, which translates in English to 'spatula'.

Eastern Sicily was struck by an earthquake in 1693 which leveled everything.
The area was rebuilt in a baroque style which was the architectural trend of the 18th century.
It's tough to capture the grandeur of the Piazza Duomo in Siracusa in a photo, it is magnificent.

Our backyard at the farmhouse Quartarella where we stayed while visiting Modica.

Ragusa, a hill town in the South. This is the day of 18,000 steps.... most of them climbing!

One of the many views in Ragusa.

An embellished garment for a Madonna statue that is used in religious processions.
Just one example of the high level of craft as expression of devotion.
'We Are All Flesh' by Berlinde De Bryckere, 2012 - Investigating pain, suffering
and the horror of violence witnessed by both humans and animals.
The horse parts come from slaughterhouse waste. No animals were harmed in the making.

Compare to the 15th century painting (below) of a princess holding the severed head
of St. John the Baptist, artist unknown.

An Etruscan coffin in the Archeological Museum in Volterra.
The base contained the remains and the cover was a sculpture created in the image of the deceased.
There were hundreds of these caskets on display and all showed the individuals
in a reclined position - a symbol of their rich and happy lives.

An Etruscan with attitude.

Our last night was spent in Catania, Sicily on Vecchio Stratta.